IRAQ: Environmental Nightmare Drags On
“We inherited a terrible situation when it comes to the environment,” Narmin Othman, Iraq’s environment minister.
By Stephen Leahy
Mar 21 (Tierramérica) – Four years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and despite 22 billion dollars spent on recovery and reconstruction, Iraq’s environment remains in disastrous shape.
“The Tigris and Euphrates rivers are essentially open sewers,” Azzam Alwash, head of Nature Iraq, a conservation group based in Baghdad, told Tierramérica.
Industrial waste, hospital waste, fertiliser run-off from farming, as well as oil spills plague the two rivers that define the Mesopotamia region and which provide much of the irrigation and drinking water.
“We inherited a terrible situation when it comes to the environment,” Narmin Othman, Iraq’s environment minister, said in a Tierramérica interview.
The natural environment of Iraq has been devastated by three wars since 1980, and decades of neglect and mismanagement under the Saddam Hussein regime (1979-2003). “The environmental laws were laughable under Saddam. State-owned industries polluted at will,” Alwash said.
Many of those industries were devoted to producing military material, and have been bombed and looted, leaving the country dotted with highly toxic industrial zones. Other contaminated sites belong to the oil and metal industries.
The ongoing conflict — launched by the United States on Mar. 20, 2003, and which has fuelled anti-occupation sentiment and sectarian violence — also means growing mountains of debris, including demolished buildings, vehicles and military equipment, have to be cleaned up and stored somewhere.
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