The Tanjero River that flows southwest of the city of Sulaimani in Iraq, is remembered by many to be a sizeable and beautiful river. It might not be the Euphrates, the great biblical river which allowed for the growth of civilization, but today it is reduced to a polluted and sewage filled stream. In a recent visit to the river conducted by Nature Iraq, the organization found extensive damage caused by in-stream gravel-mining, a common occurrence throughout Iraqi river systems. Such practices destroys habitats and fisheries and leads to erosion (read here why erosion is bad). According to Nature Iraq, in a report they sent to Green Prophet, the entire sewage load of the city is dumped into the river and then it is used to irrigate agricultural fields and water livestock around Sulaimani, Arbat, Said Sadiq and New Halabja, with each town and village adding their own contribution to the sewage and toxic load that the river carries.
The river banks, along with many open spaces throughout the area, are also used a dumping grounds for construction wastes, as well as industrial and municipal garbage.
Cows drinking from polluted stream
It’s happening in remote areas that can’t be monitored effectively: On the recent trip to the river, Nature Iraq spoke with men who were burning electronic waste (transformers) along the waters’ edge to pull out the metals they contained. Transformers are known to contain extremely toxic materials and the men were aware that this activity was not allowed within the city but the river area was away from prying eyes, says a Nature Iraq spokesperson.
Polluters can conduct their work there without worry of detection by authorities.
A very polluted river
Ultimately, Sulaimani and the cities and towns of Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan must face up to the challenge of cleaning up their rivers and streams. The men working on the banks of the river were risking not only their own long-term health but the health of their own families and everyone living downstream.
Sewage and persistent toxic chemicals polluting Iraqi waterways are an on-going and increasing health threat of enormous significance both locally and for the country as a whole. Destruction of river habitats and functions for short-term benefits will leave all the people of Iraq poorer in the end.
Read more on Iraq’s rivers:
Turkish Water Exports to Iraq Will Double
Rainless Winters In Iraq Cause Strife In Garden of Eden