In 2016 during its 40th session, The World Heritage Committee added eight new sites to the UNESCO World Heritage List. Among those was the Ahwar of Southern Iraq: Refuge of Biodiversity and the Relict Landscape of the Mesopotamian Cities. UNESCO describes the site as such: “The Ahwar is made up of seven components: three archaeological sites and four wetland marsh areas in southern Iraq. The archaeological cities of Uruk and Ur and the Tell Eridu archaeological site form part of the remains of the Sumerian cities and settlements that developed in southern Mesopotamia between the 4th and the 3rd millennium BCE in the marshy delta of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The Ahwar of Southern Iraq – also known as the Iraqi Marshlands – are unique, as one of the world’s largest inland delta systems, in an extremely hot and arid environment.”
According to UNESCO, the remains of the Mesopotamian cities of Uruk, Ur and Eridu offer an outstanding testimony to the growth and subsequent decline of southern Mesopotamian urban centers and societies from the Ubaid and Sumerian periods until the Babylonian and Hellenistic periods. The three components of the property bear witness to the contribution of southern Mesopotamian cultures to the development of ancient Near Eastern urbanized societies and the history of mankind as a whole. According to UNESCO, “this exceptionally creative period in human history left its marks across place and time.” The remains of the ancient cities of Uruk, Ur and Eridu, today in the desert but originally situated near freshwater marshes which receded or became saline before drying up, best exemplify the impact of the unstable deltaic landscape of the Tigris and Euphrates upon the rise and fall of large urban centers.
The overarching governance of the property is ensured in the National Committee for managing the Ahwar of Southern Iraq as a World Heritage Property. The committee is led by the Minister of Water Resources and includes the Ministry of Culture (State Board of Antiquities and Heritage), the Ministry of Health (Department of Environment), the Ministry of Oil, the Ministry of Agriculture, and other concerned ministries. The committee coordinates all governmental decisions of relevance to the property, including budgetary allocation and implementation steps of the 2015 Consolidated Management Plan developed for the property. Uruk, Ur and Eridu are protected by the Antiquities and Heritage Law no. 55 of 2002 which takes precedence over any other public law, and each are registered in the Official Gazette as separate archaeological sites with their own boundaries and buffer zones corresponding to those of the component sites of the property.