Iraqi Sulaimani protests pollution, lack of drinking water

    19 Aug 2021

    Residents in Sulaimani province’s Tanjero area blocked roads on Sunday in protest of the lack of clean drinking water and essential services, Rudaw reports.

    “We don’t have water, we’re all parched. I have been in Tanjero for five years, it doesn’t have water, we buy water,” Nahida Mohammed, a protester, told Rudaw on Sunday.

    “Our problem is also the smell, the smells of the factories have killed us, we wake up in the mornings and our yards are covered black. We are suffocating, I have shortness of breath because of it,” she added.

    Protesters blocked Sulaimani-Qaradagh road, saying that water which used to be provided by the government to fill their tanks now costs them up to 50,000 Iraqi dinars. They also said their children have gotten sick due to toxic chemicals in the air and there is no local health center. As well, some demanded better roads.

    “We make breakfast in the morning, we can’t bring ourselves to eat it, we throw up, it all smells like chemicals and smoke,” Jairan Saaid, another protester, said.

    The people of Tanjero have long suffered from various illnesses due to air and water pollution. The Tanjero River is heavily polluted by Sulamaini municipal waste and industrial waste.

    According to research, more children are born with abnormalities in Sulaimani province, partly due to environmental pollution. Dr. Farhad Abdulkarim Barzinji is the executive manager of Microgene – the only lab in Sulaimani doing prenatal and neonatal DNA testing that diagnoses genetic abnormalities. According to Barzinji, the common denominator for children’s DNA mutation is environmental pollution.

    On the outskirts of Sulaimani, a stream of blackwater merges with Tanjero River and the currents carry the waste downstream and pollute the water supplies of towns further down the river.

    The majority of Sulaimani province’s dozens of refiners are located in Tanjaro, to the east of Sulaimani city. They refine different fossil fuels from crude, oil mainly for export.

    Tons of daily trash from Sulaimani city as well as oil, concrete, and steel factory waste, in addition to medical waste from Sulaimani’s hospitals, are dumped in the Tanjero area without proper management or recycling infrastructure, causing severe contamination of its soil, air, and water.

    The people of Tanjero are at the risk “of both short and long-term effects of biological, physical and chemical contaminants, including water and foodborne diseases, heavy metals poisonings and other potentially toxic elements and compounds present in the air, water, soil, and plants, especially south of the city and around Tanjaro River and Darbandikhan Lake,” according to 2017 research by Kurdish professor Nasih Othman.

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