Sophia's Peace Work

Friday, November 29, 2013

German Funding Lessons ...

"Our funding mode is deficit financing" 

This statement from T, our contact with the German Foreign Federal Office, was the source of some confusion in the RiverWatch Program I administered to collect water samples and do community education in both  Kurdistan, northern Iraq and along the Tigris River during the Flotilla. has the following definition:

deficit financing

(especially of a government) expenditures in excess of public revenues, made possible typically by borrowing.

The U.S. Government survives on deficit financing and this is my understanding of the term.  I.e. it means spending money you don't have today by borrowing (but in fact you're gonna have to pay that money back one day and with interest).

But my contact with the German FFO explains it this way: "Deficit-financing mode means that the FFO finances the gap between the funds that you have and the funds needed for implementing the project. If other funds come up, the gap becomes smaller and thus the deficit to be financed by FFO decreases."

In other words, if our organization doesn't have all the money needed to do the work, the German FFO will provide the difference ... but if our organization suddenly comes up with more dough, the German FFO pays less.

Yesterday I was able to sit down and finally have a face to face meeting with T, who has been a tireless supporter of our work and has held my hand through all the detailed discussions on the grant.  We submitted our financial report on the project back in the spring, and T told us that the financial folks at the German FFO are still scratching their heads over it but things will wrap up in the next week or so.  I'm hopeful that things will resolve themselves without much difficulty.  The project was a great success and generated a lot of interesting data that we're still working up.  The financial part is what made it all possible but has certainly been a big headache.

German Foreign Federal Office in Berlin

Monday, November 18, 2013

Final RiverWatch Sampling ... atleast for me anyway

With the help of CJ, a professor from the nearby university, and a few other helpers along the way, I've been able to finish sampling the bulk of the RiverWatch sites for the Lesser Zab and Tanjero River Basins (CJ has agreed to continue sampling the remaining sites).  Previously I had only spring data for these sites but now with the added data from the fall, we'll be able to develop a much more robust Scorecard to grade these rivers on the quality of their waters.  I just need to find the time to sit down and crunch the numbers!!!

Anyway, here are some images of our final sampling days ... all beautiful fall days.

CJ and N at Ahmed Awa

Beautiful Ahmed Awa water (but a lot of trash if you look closely)

 C sampling with the multimeter at Khewata

A showing S how to collect samples for the colorimeter

At Khewata preparing to sample

CJ checking water clarity with the Secchi Disk on the Lesser Zab River

Float on the Lesser Zab River through Dukan

Deflating the boat can be relaxing.

Lesser Zab near Bogd Village: Saying goodbye to the River ... again!

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Doing strange things ...

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 …"

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Continuing in the sampling effort ....

A friend of mine in Sulaimani who is teaching science courses at the American University of Iraq-Sulaimani (AUIS) has been joining me in the effort to sample all the old RiverWatch sample points on the Lesser Zab and Tanjero/Diyala Rivers.  I'm trying to develop a Scorecard for the rivers that gives different sections a grade based on their water quality and more data will strengthen this effort.

Good thing my friend wants to be involved because my organization's is rather poor these days and wants to charge us $175 for a car and driver for one day of sampling. Fortunately my friend has some transportation funds of her own that she can tap into  ... the sticker shock on what my organization is charging means we'll use a combination of AUIS vehicles, local taxis and borrowing cars from friends.

Here are some photos from our time out together ....

Small stream near a fish hatchery in Dukan that feeds into the Lesser Zab River

CJ at Surqawshan, near the mouth of the Tabbin/Chami Rezan stream that feeds into the Lesser Zab River

Taking readings with the multi-meter at the Tabbin/Chami Rezan stream further upstream

Light trapping insects along the Tabbin/Chami Rezan Stream

Checking nutrient levels on the bank of the Zalm Stream (a tributary to the Tanjero River)

CJ and I with the sampling gear (Along the Zalm Stream)

 CJ's AUIS students at a stream in Mergapan valley (below Peramagroon Mountain, in the Lesser Zab River Basin)

Students collecting a sample

Public Art in Sulaimani, Kurdistan, Iraq

A water tank in town ...