Saddam Hussein ordered the draining of the wetlands, in part to punish the native Marsh Arabs who opposed his rule.
But the quality of water now flowing into the marshes is better than expected and researchers say 30% of the former wetlands could be restored.
Sometimes identified as the site of the Garden of Eden, the wetlands have been home to the Marsh Arabs for at least 5,000 years. They once covered an area of 20,000-15,000 sq km - twice the size of the Florida Everglades.
Saddam's concerted effort to drain the marshes in the 1990s and the diversion of water further upstream by some of Iraq's neighbours have left the wetlands standing at just 7% of their original size.
The Iraqi government has set up an agency to draw up a blueprint for revitalising the area. The international community has pledged $30m to the effort.
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BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Promising signs for Iraq marshes