Iraq has had canals, aqueducts and dams since the 7th Century BC, but after years of war and neglect the nation's extensive canal and waterways networks are in a terrible condition. These photos (courtesy dvids) taken at Salah Al Din, north of Bagdad, show the state of much of Iraq's waterways is similar to that of the British canals in the 60's and 70's, if not worse.
Large parts of Iraq including important farming areas rely on extensive networks of irrigation canals, while millions of Iraqis rely on waterways to bring them drinking water, but the whole system is in such a state it is holding back recovery, impacting the lives of millions.
However the strategic importance of Iraq's waterways and their lack of maintenance has not been missed by the US Army. Their engineers have led a number of important canal and waterway reconstruction schemes, the latest was recently announced. These are seen as crucial for future prosperity and stability in Iraq.
Meanwhile the results of one of the worst premeditated ecological crimes ever committed by man against man and nature continue to be felt in southern Iraq. This is where Saddam Hussein drained nine-tenths of the largest wetlands in the Middle East (above), turning the whole area, which was possibly the site of the original Garden of Eden, into desolate arid salt flats. The native Marsh Arab peoples, considered to be "backwards thinking" by the brutal regime, were forced to flee for their lives.
After the Iraq War which finally ended Saddam's rule, some attempts were made to return the valuable wetlands to their original condition and bring the Marsh Arab people back to their homes, but so far only a tiny part of the marshes have been brought back to life.
Above: the dead lands which were once a paradise (photo by Raheem Salman/Los Angeles Times, Sep 24, 2009).It will take an international effort to solve Iraq's water crisis (Guardian).