Western governments are much more interested in Iraq’s post-conflict “democracy building” than environmental issues, according to the folks over at Nature Iraq, who are well known for their combat zone conservation work. The small conservation outfit attempted to keep an eye on the country’s degraded waterways but had to give up once they ran out of financial resources in 2009.
Their main concern is to monitor the Lesser Zab River, which rises in Iran and eventually runs into the Tigris River. This historically important waterway is threatened by fuel spills from smuggling activities, water diversion and irrigation projects, dam construction, gravel mining operations; and municipal sewage and solid waste impacts among other issues, but Nature Iraq has felt powerless to do anything about it. Until now.
After gaining official acceptance to the International Waterkeeper Alliance this year, Iraq’s Waterkeeper Nabil Musa set out to familiarize himself with rivers under his jurisdiction and to conduct a number of clean-up, outreach and educational projects. Even more importantly, the Waterkeeper received a grant from the UK-based Rufford Small Grants Foundation to conduct a threat assessment of the Lesser Zab River in Kurdistan, Northern Iraq and develop action plans for addressing the river’s unique threats.
This is a tremendous boon for nature conservation in Iraq in particular and for the Middle East in general.