Environmental Audit Committee

9 February 2004 Military Operations and Reconstruction:

9 February 2004 Military Operations and Reconstruction:

the Environment in Iraq


It is clear that the environmental situation in Iraq is a cause of great concern not just for the people of Iraq but for all those interested in that country’s stable and prosperous future. Recent publications from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) have spotlighted the severe environmental degradation that the country suffered before and as a result of the recent military operations conducted there; and have also shown that in many areas the situation has not improved since the setting up of the Coalition Provisional Authority.

It is, however, not entirely clear to what extent reconstruction and other assistance will prioritise and properly address the major environmental problems which are so evident in Iraq.  The Committee is very alive to the fact that the situation in Iraq is dangerous and changeable, and that information concerning the environmental context is inevitably patchy and far from comprehensive.  Nonetheless, the Committee considers it important that some assessment be made of the degree to which environmental and sustainable development principles are properly integrated and prioritised.

Given that many of the issues arising out of the Iraq conflict and its aftermath might well show themselves in future conflicts (as they were in some respects adumbrated in the earlier Balkan conflicts), the Committee has decided to carry out this inquiry in the form of an environmental audit of Government policy with regard to military operations and reconstruction activity and priorities in general.  It will also seek to assess how these policies have been applied in respect of Iraq.  To that end the Committee would like to hear from interested parties their considered views, in general terms and with regard to Iraq, on the extent to which relevant Government departments:

1. have in place policies to evaluate and minimise environmental damage in planning and carrying out military action;

2. have in place policies to assist in establishing environmental and sustainable development priorities for reconstruction in the immediate aftermath of conflicts; and

3. liaise and coordinate with military partners, international organisations and other Governmental departments in the above respects.

The Committee expects the inquiry to focus in particular on the activities of the MoD and DfID, but would welcome views as to the role of the FCO, DEFRA and other Government departments or agencies.

The Committee would also like to hear views as to the degree to which environmental progress in Iraq is hampered by the absence of a comprehensive and agreed baseline assessment upon which all parties are committed to act.

Written evidence should be sent to the Committee by Monday 1st March 2004, preferably by e-mail to eacom@parliament.uk (with a hard copy by post).   A brief guidance note on the preparation and submission of evidence is available on the Committee’s web pages.  For further information on the Committee’s inquiry, please telephone 020-7219-5776.


Notes for Editors

1.    The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) produced  its Desk Study on the Environment in Iraq at the end of April 2003.  This was followed-up in October 2003 by its Environment in Iraq: UNEP Progress Report. These are the fullest environmental assessments to date of the situation in Iraq following the recent conflict.  There is also a significant amount of information on the reconstruction needs of Iraq in the United Nations/World Bank Joint Iraq Needs Assessment, also of October 2003