Our weekly series looking at the Middle East Arabic blogosphere. This week: Iraq. And a green blog that began after Saddam Hussein’s demise.
After looking at Mazen Abboud’s environmental blog from Lebanon and at SAWA for A Better Syrian Society, we are flying this week to Syria’s next-door neighbor, Iraq, and to a blog written in Arabic called The Iraqi Environmental Blog, active from September 2008. This comes in due time, as we learn about Iraqi bird conservationists risking life and “wing” to save birds in the face of Al Qaeda infidels.
This blog is a personal blog written in Arabic by Alaa Kamel Alwan (left), an Iraqi engineer. In his profile, Alaa writes about himself that he lives in Basra, Iraq, and that he is “an environmental activist and an informant as well as a member of the Arab Professional Informants League.”
In his first post titled “the Iraqi Environmental Blog” Alaa Kamel Alwan writes that this is a “personal initiative,” which aims at supporting the realization of the 10th principle of the Rio Declaration from 1992 concerning the transparent distribution of environmental information among the civilians.
As such, this blog informs the readers about: the Iraqi government ministries, newspapers, societies, and universities which deal with environmental issues; the Iraqi environmental legislation; the activities of the Iraqi environmental societies; the Iraqi environmental publications; and reports on the environment in Basra and the Marshes.
The Iraqi Environmental Organizations
According to this blog, there are many Iraqi organizations which deal with the environment.
The College of Environmental Science and Technology in the University of Mosul, which was established in 2006
Women & Environment Organization, which was established in 2005
The Organization for the Protection and Improvement of the Iraqi Environment, which was established on August 21, 2003
The Natural History Museum in Baghdad, which was established in 1946
The Society for the Protection of the Iraqi Environment, which was established on September 30, 2003
The Iraqi Environmental Ministry, which was established in November 2003
Together Society for the Protection of the People and the Environment, which was established in 2005
The Center for Environmental Studies in the University of Technology, which was established in 2004
The Center for the Research of the Marshes in Dhi Qar University, which was established in 2004
The Iraqi Meteorological organization and Seismologyin the Ministry of Transportation, which was established in 1923
The Center for Solar Energy Research in the Ministry of Sciences and Technology
The Center for Energy and Fuel Research in the University of Technology, which was established on November 20, 2004
The Center for Maritime Sciences in the University of Basra, which was established in 1976
and the Nature Iraq Organization
In spite of the fact that there was almost no environmental activity during Saddam Hussein’s rule, it is impressive that, according to above mentioned list, the current Iraqi organizations and institutions dealing with the environment include a whole array of governmental institutions, research centers, environmental societies, and civil society organizations.
It is noteworthy that none of the these Iraqi environmental institions and organizations were established during the rule of Saddam Hussein over Iraq from 1979, until theafter the American invasion of Iraq, and the fall of Baghdad and the Saddam Hussein’s regime in April 2003. A few of these organizations were established before Saddam Hussein rose to power in 1979.
Iraqi Environmental Legislation
The Blog also gives information concerning the environmental laws that have been promulgated in Iraq recently. These environmental laws include: The Law of the Joining of the Iraqi Republic to the Agreement On Biodiversity from August 19, 2008; The Law of the Ministry of Environment from September 13, 2008; The Forests Law from 2009; The Law of the Agreement of the Iraqi Republic to Join the Basel Agreement from January 14, 2009; The Law of the Joining of the Iraqi Republic to the UN Framework Agreement for Combatting Desertification from April 14, 2009; The Law of the Environment’s Protection and Improvement from September 29, 2009; and The Law for the Protection of the Terresetrial Animals from January 25, 2010.
The environment was part of the Iraqi constitution too. In a post titled “the Environment in the Iraqi Constitutions” Alaa shows that even under Saddam Hussein’s rule, the environment was very important. In the 64th clause of the 1991 Draft Constitution of Iraq, it is said that “secondly, all the state’s mechanisms and all the people have to protect the environment from pollution and from damages to its beauty and function.”
This draft constitution was never promulgated, but, still, it shows that even Saddam Hussein understood that the First Gulf War caused a lot of damage to the environment in Iraq.
Then, at the same post, Alaa cites the 33rd clause of the 2005 Iraqi constitution, which says that “first of all, everyone has the right to live in healthy environmental conditions and, secondly, the state guarantees the protection of the environment and biodiversity.”
The Iraqi Environmental Publications
Alaa enumerates some environmental written publications which have been in existence during the last five years.
The first of these publications was “The Environment and Life.” This is the first Iraqi environmental magazine, which is issued by the Center for Environmental Information and Awareness, which belongs to the Iraqi Environmental Ministry. The first magazine was issued in December 2005. This is a monthly magazine which includes articles, researches, environmental reports, local and global environmental news and details about the projects conducted by the Ministry of Environment throughout Iraq.
Another publication mentioned in the blog is the “Iraqi Magazine for Aquaculture.” This bi-yearly magazine is issued by the Center for Maritime Sciences in the University of Basra. It is issued both in Arabic and in English.
Reports On Environmental Events and Projects
This blog serves also to inform the public about environmental events and projects which are taking place or will take place in Iraq.
A good example is the report concerning the first environmental international conference on radioactive pollution and its implications on the environment and health in Iraq. This conference will be held in Baghdad on November 23 – 24, 2010 under the slogan “towards a real treatment to decrease the suffering of the victims of the radioactive pollution.” This conference is organized by the Iraqi Center for International Studies together with the Department of Geography – Ibn Rushd Cultural Faculty – University of Baghdad.
This report follows many other articles posted in the blog on the campaign to clean Iraq from the radioactive pollution, which started in 2009 and is still continuing. Since Basra and its environs suffered from radioactive pollution more than any other area in Iraq and the author of the blog is from there, it is no wonder that he dedicates many posts to this issue.
Another example is the report about a new environmental-friendly regulation that the supervisor over the Iraqi elections to the parliament issued in December 2009. In the third chapter, which talks specifically about the conditions of the election campaigns, one can find also conditions for protecting the environment, such as prohibition to use glue, gum, and other materials; prohibition to write on the fences. Whoever breaks these conditions will have to pay a fine.
Reports On the Environment in Basra and the Marshes
Since Alaa is from Basra, it is not surprising that many of his posts describe the environment in Basra, the marshes, and the natural reserves there, such as al-Safiya Natural Reserve.
Suggestions for the Upgrading the Situation of the Iraqi Environment
The blog’s author also makes suggestions how to upgrade the situation of the Iraqi environment. These suggestions include: activation of the new Iraqi constitution to convict whever damages the environment; establishing an environmental police as did Jordan; prohibition of import of materials and products that damages the ozone layer and imposition of a high tax on it; promulgation of a law that will force the car owners to maintain their cars according to the exhaust gas international standards as a basic condition for the renewal of their driving license as is done in Egypt; establishing factories for the recycling of waste as happens in the UAE; establishing environmental-friendly incinerators to treat the medical waste in all the hospitals; establishing an expert committee for ways to clean Iraq from the radioactive pollution.
A Sum of the Iraqi Environmental Blog
The Iraqi Environmental Blog is rich in details concerning the environment in Iraq and serves as a very good source to learn about it as from April 2003, when the Saddam Hussein’s regime was toppled.
One can learn from this blog that since April 2003 a lot of environmental organizations, societies, research institutions, publications, internet websites have been established and the environmental awareness among the Iraqi public has been increasing.
In this way, the author, who is an environmentalist and an informant, really realizes the aims for which he opened his blog. He gives the Iraqi public a very detailed information about the issue of the environment in Iraq.
The problem is that according to the Iraq Usage and Marketing Report, as of June 2010, there were only 325,000 Iraqi internet users out of a total population of 29,671,605 people, who comprise only 1.1% of the total Iraqi population.
This means that for the time being the detailed environmental blog does not reach most of the Iraqi population. However, the number of internet users is growing and as a result the environmental awareness among them might increase too.
More on Environment in Iraq: