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12 June 2007, 07:41 EDT
Regional pollution becomes focal point

A file photo shows children walking through a mud-covered spot in an Erbil district.

By Ako Muhammed 
The Globe
Old cars, chemical weapons, factories, and lack of environmental protection laws are numerous reasons why Kurdistan is suffering an expanding pollution problem.
Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) Ministry of Environment presented a report on the region's environmental situation to Kurdistan Parliament on June 5, the UN's World Environment Day and nearly a year to the day of the founding of the ministry.

Erbil city alone produces 800 tons of garbage every day and Suleimaniya city produces about 700 tons. These mountains of garbage are not scientifically recycled, said KRG Minister of Environment Dara Mohammad Amin.

"The garbage is thrown in a nearby place; some of it is burned. This is not in keeping with the programs of (protecting) the environment," he said, calling for proper solutions. "The garbage can be separated; some of it could be recycled and some used as fertilizer material."

According to a survey by the ministry, garbage gathered in a certain place leaks poisonous runoff to underground water. Additionally, burning garbage causes air pollution. Heavy water is also not recycled. In some places, sewage mixes with drinking water resources.

"For example, Chwarqurna and Haji-awa towns throw their heavy water into Dukan Lake, from which Suleimaniya drinks. Suleimaniya's sewage mixes with Tanjaro River and Darbandikhan Lake and is drunk by other people," said Amin, who asked for the government's support for an immediate solution.

The minister said that he asked the Kurdistan Parliament to hold a private session on World Environment Day to allow him to present the report.

"I talked about the dangers facing the environment in the world and in Kurdistan in particular," Amin said about the report, hoping it help the ministry in solving Kurdistan's pollution problem.

Amin mainly counts on Parliament to support and be a bridge for making people aware about how to protect their surroundings. 
The polluters of the region in this case are the people of Kurdistan themselves. The minister explained that the increasing population rate inside cities boosts pollution.

Amin mentioned other factors causing pollution in the region, such as large numbers of cars; effects of weapons of mass destruction used in wars; existence of factories near and inside cities; few green areas inside cities; and the lack of a law protect the environment, to name a few.
I talked about the dangers facing the environment in the world and in Kurdistan in particular

Within any master plan sketched for reconstructing Kurdistan cities, the Ministry of Environment asked that 30% of the city's lands be dedicated for green areas. In Erbil, the biggest Kurdistan city with a population of over 1 million, the green areas comprise only 1.5% of the total city, according to ministry information.

As there is nearly one car per four people in the region, the ministry wants the government to crack down on old cars in order to decrease the rate of pollution they produce.

In past projects carried out in Kurdistan, the minister said, environmental standards were not taken into consideration. This is because there was not a Ministry of Environment to supervise until the KRG established it in May 2006. Since then, this ministry has worked to identify the problems and is working to prepare a draft law to apply environmental restrictions over any project executed in the future. The law, Amin said, will be sent to Kurdistan Parliament for approval within the week.