A friend originally of German origin who has become an honorary Kurd recently wrote about the end of summer and swimming in the waters of Dukan Lake (a reservoir on the Lesser Zab River). He was dismayed to find the shores of the lake covered in garbage. Though he loves the beauty of his adopted country he is disheartened by the way the land and its waters are being treated by its own people.
He wrote, "How many more songs are we going to sing about the love we have for our land and country – before we start to love with our actions ? is this our interpretation of love? (as in we use the ones we love – and then we dump them – and do not care what happens to them … ?)"
I care about rivers and waters and have worked on these issues for most of my time in Iraq and have seen the local rivers and streams here treated as if they are no better than a drain pipe that gets rid of anything we don't want. What clean water is available is pumped out of the river where it supports fish and birds to be put through pipes and into fountains that no one can access because they have been built in the narrow medians of busy highways. They exist only to provide a pretty view to the drivers whizzing by. Or this precious resource is abused in the endless cleaning of streets and sidewalks because people are too lazy to pick up a broom.
Here are some of our sample results for nitrates (the yellow vial below) and phosphates (the blue vial below) on the Tanjero River downstream of the town of Sulaimani. Nitrogen and phosphorous are two important nutrients that in clean water should be quite low.
Nutrient levels at the Qaraqoll site on the Tanjero River
Phosphate (PO4) levels were 2.33 mg/L (the Iraqi limit for surface waters should be less than 0.4 mg/L). The level for nitrates (NO3) were very high (11.7 mg/L) and at the next site we tested 7 km downstream, the Nitrate levels were over 16 mg/L (the Iraqi limit for surface waters should be less than 14 mg/L). These are some of the highest levels I've seen in the entire time I've been surveying. At one site upstream the Phosphate levels were over the 5.5 mg/L detection limit of the instrument I was using.
The Tanjero River in Qaraqoll.
The river also looked physically bad with a turbid, brownish-grey color and a sewage odor. Essentially all the sewage and factory waste water from the town of Sulaimani (a city with over 1.5 million people) goes into the river with zero
treatment. All of it heading south to villages and towns downstream and eventually into the Darbandikhan Reservoir, and on down to the town of Darbanidikhan, Kalar, etc .... the river changes its name several times and eventually becomes the Diyala River that feeds into the Tigris River just south of Baghdad.
Rivers have tremendous power to clean themselves but not with each and every town using the river as their own personal, open sewer ... The prevailing attitude is that its not our problem, let the next town deal with it. On one occasion, in the town of Soran (in the Greater Zab Basin) someone told me, "Oh, we don't need to worry, this river is going to Baghdad. Its their problem." And what do you tell the people living upstream?
My friend, the German immigrant, inspires me and I agree with him. He wrote, "i personally have had enough. I love this country – and i love it’s mountains and rivers and it’s lakes and I promised them that i will fight for them like a protective lover would for a beautiful woman … so do not be surprised if you see or hear me do strange things in these coming months – no matter what anybody may say or do -
because people who are in love can do strange and desperate and crazy things … and if anybody wants to join me - you know where to find me - because i passionately wish that 2014 may be a year of doing love – and showing respect - and not just saying it – or singing about it …
it is time …"