Razzaza Lake

Country/territory: Iraq

IBA Criteria met: A1, A2, A3, A4i, A4iii (2015)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 156,234 ha

Protection status:

Nature Iraq
Most recent IBA monitoring assessment
Year of assessment Threat score (pressure) Condition score (state) Action score (response)
2013 very high very unfavourable negligible
For more information about IBA monitoring please click here

Site description
Bahr Al Milh is a very large, deep and brackish lake in a closed, sand/silt basin 95 km south-west of Baghdad, surrounded by desert and with a low cliff shore in many places. It was created in the late 1970s as a second storage reservoir (below Haur Al Habbaniya, site 016) to control floods on the River Euphrates. The salinity of the lake has been increasing since its creation and now stands at about 2.0-2.2%. There are many islands and peninsulas. Lake Usathe (also called Shithathah lake, 32°37'N 43°55'E, c.100 ha) lies a few kilometres from the south-east corner of Bahr Al Milh. It is a small, shallow, freshwater lake with some emergent vegetation. The surrounding area has some sandy cliffs and is sparsely vegetated. 2014 updates. Razzaza Lake is connected to Habbaniya Lake by a narrow canal running through semi-desert, called Sin-Al-Thibban Canal. Razzaza used to be a large, deep lake,but it is now characterized by very high salinity levels, which have increased during the past ten years due to the shortage in water it receives and increased evaporation during Iraq’s very dry, hot summers. Locals report that water levels have declined and the lake is likely now to be only 5–10 m deep. The extensive shrinkage of the lakeduring the 2000sis graphically seen in a series of satellite images taken in summer. These are not seasonal changes but are based on management issues that need to be resolved regarding water allocation to Razazza via the Sin-Al-Thibban Canal from Habbaniya Lake. The geology of the area is marls, siltstones, gypsum/anhydrite, and limestone bands, mainly silts and the main habitats beside the lake are beds of Phragmites australis, Juncus acutus, Aeluropus lagapoides, Salicornia herbacea, and Schoenoplectuslittoralisand desert shrublands such asTamarix aucherana, T. macrocarpa, Prosopis farcta, Zygophyllum fabago, Nitraria retusa, and Haloxylon salicornicum.

Key biodiversity
See box for key species (some counts from the Karbala area are included). The lake is important for breeding Marmaronetta angustirostris, and holds huge numbers of wintering waterfowl. In January 1979 107,000 waterfowl were counted on Bahr Al Milh, even though only two points in the vast wetland area were surveyed, including very large concentrations of Podiceps cristatus, P. nigricollis, Phalacrocorax carbo, Pelecanus onocrotalus, Mergellus albellus and Fulica atra, while Lake Usathe held 30,500 waterfowl including good numbers of Phoenicopterus ruber, dabbling ducks and Recurvirostra avosetta. Pelecanus crispus was recorded at both lakes. Bahr Al Milh was listed as a wetland of international importance by Carp (1980).

Non-bird biodiversity: No information available to BirdLife International.

2014 updates. Razzaza Lake harbors considerable numbers of waterfowl (particularly the globally threatened Marmaronetta angustirostris) and its mudflats attract large number of waders and shorebirds during their passage. It also has a considerable number of inaccessible marshlands that are important for breeding birds, in addition to the islands that are perfect for breeding gull and tern species in quite good numbers Additional Important Bird Observations: During the surveys, 42 bird species were observed. Razaza Lake provides vast areas of mudflats that are suitable habitat for large numbers of migrant and wintering waterfowl and waders. There is a resident population of Greater FlamingoPhoenicopterusroseusthat might use this wetland for breeding. Important Other Fauna: The valleys and dense plant cover (including orchards) on the western side of the lake and the flat arid/semi-desert areas on the eastern and southern parts of the lake might harbor considerable wildlife diversity; however, these areas were not surveyed during the KBA surveys. According to local reports, mammals include:Rüppell's FoxVulpesrueppellii, Golden Jackal Canisaureus, Indian Grey Mongoose Herpestesedwardsii, Jungle Cat Felischaus, Wild Cat Felissilvestrisand other common species. At this time only one old fisherman could be found who reported that only one fish species is found in the lake, called locally Shanak, (Acanthopagrus cf. arabicus), which is a marine fish in origin and is stocked at the site by the government to support fishing in the lake

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Razzaza Lake. Downloaded from on 08/03/2021.