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Location Iraq, Al-Anbar,Karbala'
Central coordinates 43o 40.00' East  32o 41.00' North
IBA criteria A1, A4i, A4iii, B1i, B2
Area 156,234 ha
Altitude 28 - 56m
Year of IBA assessment 1994

Nature Iraq (Affiliate)

Summary 2014 updates. In Evans (1994), this area is listed under the name “Bahr Al Milh” (IBA 021) but it is more commonly referred to as Razzaza Lake

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

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Gadwall Mareca strepera winter  1979  3,000 individuals  poor  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Northern Shoveler Spatula clypeata winter  1975-1979  2,526-5,372 individuals  poor  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Marbled Teal Marmaronetta angustirostris breeding  1997  50-249 individuals  poor  A1, A4i, B1i, B2  Vulnerable 
Smew Mergellus albellus winter  1979  1,000 individuals  poor  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus winter  1975  7-600 individuals  poor  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis winter  1975  40-1,100 individuals  poor  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus winter  1975-1979  2,365-3,500 individuals  poor  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus winter  1979  601 individuals  poor  A4i  Least Concern 
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo winter  1975  1,500-3,001 individuals  poor  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Common Coot Fulica atra winter  1975-1979  96,250-102,522 individuals  poor  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Himantopus himantopus breeding  1979  100 breeding pairs  poor  B1i  Not Recognised 
Himantopus himantopus passage  1979  500 individuals  poor  A4i, B1i  Not Recognised 
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta winter  1979  300 individuals  poor  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
White-tailed Lapwing Vanellus leucurus resident  1979  300 breeding pairs  poor  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds winter  1975-1979  100,000-499,999 individuals  poor  A4iii   

IBA Monitoring

2013 very high not assessed negligible

Natural system modifications dams & water management/use - large dams happening now whole area/population (>90%) very rapid to severe deterioration very high

Little/none of site covered (<10%)  No management planning has taken place  Not assessed  negligible 


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Artificial - aquatic   major
Wetlands (inland)   major

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
water management 100%
hunting major
military -
tourism/recreation -

Acknowledgements Data-sheet compiled by Pavel Ctyroky, reviewed by Dr Khalid Y. Al-Dabbagh and Dr Hanna Y. Siman.

References Carp (1975a,b), Ctyroký (1987), Scott and Carp (1982). Evans, M. I. (1994). Important Bird Areas in the Middle East. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International. Birdlife Conservation Series No. 2 . Salim, M. A. (2008). Natural Overview of Ar-Razzaza Lake. Unpublished internal technical report. Nature Iraq.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Razzaza Lake (Bahr Al Milh) . Downloaded from on 28/10/2016

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