We returned last to Iraq in April 2019 to find deep gratitude for our 8 years of work and financial support at the National level in Bagdad. We were funded to begin building the first third of the wastewater garden at El Chibaish this past winter with workers and equipment commensurate with $250,000.
This would immediately remove the sewage odor from the marshes. Just as we prepared to return to build, popular protests erupted causing the fall of the National government. The newly approved Minister of Water Resources Mahdi Rashid Al-Hamdani has written a new letter of support for the project. But with the fall in oil prices and Covid-19 affecting the Iraqi economy, the National Budget of which we once were part, is very diminished. New elections are now set for June 2021. So huge changes are ahead and we will continue our fundraising efforts elsewhere until we can return.
As of September 13, 2020 we are once again in conversation with engineers from the Ministry of Water Resources to possibly work out details to recommence excavation.
Between 2014 and 2016, three of the largest town councils in the region enthusiastically approved of our garden by donating the use of five large sites, each serving 5-10,000 people. They understood that their current situation endangers both their health and the health of the wetlands.
With the support of mayor Mr. Badeaa Al-kayoun, and regional governor of Dhi Qar, Mr. Yahya al-Nasiri, we chose to build our first constructed wetland and wastewater garden at El Chibaish, along the north bank of the Euphrates River, in the Central Marshes. The city is an important urban area along the main road from Nasiriyah and Basra. We hope this initial garden will serve as an important example of how this system can be implemented elsewhere within the country.
We have numerous letters of support from the communities, the region, and the state.
An Environmental Impact Assessment(EIA) was provided for the region in 2014.
In 2013-2017, THE INITIAL RESEARCH PART OF THIS PROJECT was funded in Singapore by a $65,000 Ministry of Education Research Grant awarded to Associate Professor Meridel Rubenstein and Assistant Professor Peer Sathikh from the School of Art, Design and Media of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, in collaboration with Dr. Sander van Der Leeuw, Dr. Mark Nelson, and Dr. Davide Tocchetto. This initial grant allowed our international team to research and design the garden, with numerous trips to the area sites. In addition, the university awarded $36,500 to exhibit all aspects of the project (designs, photographs, videos, and writing) at the National Design Centre in Singapore in 2017. This comprehensive exhibition of the project and its relation to Mesopotamian history is available.