Implementation of the NBSAP
Strategic biodiversity objectives and activities have not been officially defined and included in relevant legislation and planning in Iraq. Yet Iraq is defining a “National Environmental Strategy” with support from the World Health Organization, UNEP-ROWA and the UNDP office in Iraq which concerns various environmental aspects, and includes the protection of Iraq’s biodiversity as a core component. The main policy objectives of the Iraqi NBSAP correspond to: review and updating of all national environmental legislation; development of a national law, management plans and a national network for protected areas; pollution remediation and control; EIA and SEA policies for biodiversity; legislation and practical control concerning invasive species; national law for forests, hunting and wild fauna and flora collection and trade; local institutional development and community involvement on environment/agriculture for the sustainable use of biological resources for livelihoods; promotion of local, traditional knowledge and practices to sustainably manage environment and resources; capacity building; economic development through the sustainable use of natural resources. National priorities regarding NBSAP development have been identified as: utilization of the knowledge and experience gained from the Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA) Project; development of the Mesopotamia Marshlands National Park and the Hawizeh Ramsar wetland; definition of cross-cutting themes and relevant key issues that may guide further research on biodiversity and conservation for the country.
Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets
In regard to the 11 goals and 21 targets contained in the global 2010 Biodiversity Target framework, progress towards five (5) targets is improving, while worsening for four (4) targets; no significant changes have been recorded for three (3) targets and, for nine (9) cases, insufficient information is available to make an evaluation. The Ministry of Environment is working with many partners to designate Iraq’s first national park in the central marshes. A draft management plan exists for this park and the site information is currently being updated in cooperation with the Nature Iraq/New Eden Group. In addition, Iraq also has one designated habitat/species management area (protected area managed mainly for conservation through management intervention), one established informal protected area, and 14 protected areas under the management of the Ministry of Agriculture. The total area of officially‐designated protected areas (natural sites) now covers 0.3% of the country. The marshland area of Hawizeh and the Central Marshes, covered by Iraq’s Ramsar Site Management Plan and the National Park designation, form 9.6% of the global ecological region “Tigris and Euphrates alluvial salt marsh”. Based on the Key Biodiversity Areas Surveys (2005-2010), an initial list of Important Bird Areas and Important Wetland Sites was greatly expanded and an updated list of proposed Key Biodiversity Area sites has been developed and includes 88 sites.
Many biodiversity-related activities have been carried out in Iraq or are still in progress by the Ministry of Environment. Priority is given to the proposed Mesopotamian marshland, which is an internationally important wintering ground for many Eurasian bird species. Other important activities include the development of the Hawizeh Marshlands (Ramsar Site) Management Plan and Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA) Project. Other strategies and initiatives related to biodiversity include the UNEP Iraqi Marshlands Observation System (IMOS) and its Marshlands Project; Canada-Iraq Marshlands Initiative (CIMI); UNDP projects in the Iraqi marshland areas; World Bank sponsored Iraq Emergency Environmental Management Project (EEMP); and projects supported by USAID. Some polluted sites have been cleaned up and some laws and orders to stop the dumping of waste in the rivers or treat sewage water have been approved. Finally, some improvement has been made regarding the monitoring and analysis of data on the marshes and Key Biodiversity Area sites.
Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)
During the 2007-2010 period, 12 environmental laws and 15 related laws were legislated, while the Environmental Protection and Improvement Law, Forest Law and Law on the Protection of Wild Animals and Birds were updated. In the same period, Iraq joined UNCCD, UNFCCC, CBD, RAMSAR Convention, Basil Convention, UNESCO Convention, Vienna Convention and the Montreal Protocol, International Agreement on Olive Oil, Regional Commission for Fish Traps. The draft Regulation on Nature Protected Areas and the draft Law for Regulating Hunting Activity are under approval. In 2005, the Ministries of Environment, Higher Education and Scientific Research, and Agriculture, as well as others conducted research on the degradation or decline of forested areas in Iraq. Research on climate change is also being carried out.
Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation
Monitoring tools and research initiatives have been launched within the framework of the Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA) Surveys, Nature Iraq (2004‐2009) Flora of Iraq project, Smithsonian Natural History Museum and the Bar Code of Life research project on aquatic invertebrates. Examples include the development of draft checklists of the country’s birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish, as well as some attempts by the Ministry of Environment, in cooperation with many partners, to implement a Water Quality Index (WQI) and Indices for Biotic Integrity (IBIs) to examine overall water quality and the health of ecosystems. The standardization of a threat assessment methodology was also elaborated through the Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA) Project.