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    “Pollution of the land and sky.” Factories and refineries in Dohuk are outside environmental standar

    Rocky
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    “Pollution of the land and sky.” Factories and refineries in Dohuk are outside environmental standar Empty “Pollution of the land and sky.” Factories and refineries in Dohuk are outside environmental standar

    Post by Rocky Thu 30 May 2024, 4:50 am

    “Pollution of the land and sky.” Factories and refineries in Dohuk are outside environmental standards and a threat to health
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    Baghdad today - Dohuk
    Researchers and environmental and health specialists warn of the repercussions of its gaseous emissions and solid and liquid waste on soil, water and air, its threats to public health, and its disruption of the ecosystem.
    A.M. (42 years old), who lives in the Bastaki residential complex north of Dohuk in the Kurdistan Region, closes the windows of her house, turns off the air cooler, and asks the children to enter the house, with the onset of the evening hours, when primitive oil refineries operating nearby release their pollutants and release Its smoke rose into the sky, carrying foul odors.
    “It is unbearable,” the woman says angrily, pointing to the Kwashi industrial area. “We have been in this situation for years. She poses all kinds of risks to us, but no one can stop her.”
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    Pollutants left behind by industrial facilities in the region constitute a life dilemma and a source of danger for thousands of residents of the region and its surroundings, according to statements by environmental activists, researchers, and health specialists, some of whom confirm that the soil, water, and air have become polluted and that the risks have reached livestock, and that the matter has reached the point of “imbalance.” environmental system".
    This is what the environmental activist Idris Asahi (50 years old) has been warning about for years, who frequently appears on social media highlighting what he describes as “major environmental and health risks” left by private oil factories and refineries in the Kwashi region, many of which do not comply with environmental standards. .
    Ashi, an assistant physician in the Health Department of Sumil District (15 km northwest of Dohuk), says while flipping through pictures showing waterways polluted with factory waste and smoke rising from small industrial facilities: “Here, hazardous waste and emissions are found everywhere. They pollute the land, water and air, and threaten Nearby residents are infected with a number of diseases, and their effects spread far through the air and water.”
    As a resident of the region, Asahi repeatedly appeals to the government and influential powers to save the residents of the areas surrounding Kwashi from the dangers of its pollutants by stopping their sources or even reducing them. He and others also filed complaints with multiple parties, but their voices and movements remained “to no avail, despite repeated promises.”
    He added, shaking his head emotionally: “Judicial authorities stopped the work of these facilities, but that only lasted for a few days, so they resumed their work again... It is clear that the work of these facilities goes beyond the local authorities and concerned authorities.”
    Kwashi's problem is not limited to environmental violations through the fumes and gases it releases, Asahi says, "The area includes oil refineries whose owners seized the lands on which they were built illegally, and do not have government work permits."
    The environmental activist warns that some people circumvent the laws and instructions, by establishing factories under certain names, and then later diverting their use to other purposes, such as the oil industry.
    “But what results from these primitive refineries?” Asahi asks, raising both hands, then answers himself: “Year after year, cancer cases increase in all regions of the Kurdistan region. In 2019, the recorded numbers reached 1,300 cases, but during The period following the Covid-19 pandemic witnessed a decline as a result of the cessation of industrial activities that pollute the environment.” 
    There are no statistics available on the number of cases of respiratory, chest, and cancerous diseases in the vicinity of the industrial zone in the Kwashi region, especially in light of the absence of a hospital specialized in cancer diseases in the region, but environmental activists and specialist doctors are certain of their dangerous impact on health.
    “It's like having an open gas bottle at home and you have to inhale its gas day and night,” is how Asahi describes what residents of the area face.
    The fear of contracting dangerous diseases and escaping from the unpleasant smell that industrial facilities emit throughout the night pushed dozens of residents of the area to flee from them. This is confirmed by a resident of the “Bastaki” complex who preferred to remain anonymous: “If you take a small tour, you will find that many of the houses are written On its walls is a display for sale. Two days ago, a family left, and before that, my neighbor moved to the city of Zakho, and I have intentions to sell my house and go live somewhere else.”
    The area of ​​the Kwashi area is 2,200 dunums, and there are 175 industrial facilities that have received official approvals, including three flour mills, in addition to dozens of small refineries, some of which are not environmentally certified, according to the Semil District Municipality. 
    The waste from that area formed hills of waste that could be spotted from afar, and two streams of oil waste thrown out by oil refineries, while columns of smoke covered the sky, leaving unpleasant odors spreading over several kilometers. Next to all of this are villages and residential complexes such as “Marina” and "Bastki" next to the city of Semil.
    Environmental violations
    Engineer Mohsen Abdel Karim, Director of the Semil Municipality Department, says that the Kouachi area includes factories for heavy products such as iron, as well as plastic, cork, and various other products, “and because it is not permissible to have such facilities within cities, this area was allocated for them.”
    It is noteworthy that these factories have obtained official approvals, and that their licenses are of two types, “industrial development and investment,” and that applications for licenses are submitted to a higher committee supervised by the Dohuk Governorate Administration, which sends them to the municipality department, where the latter allocates the appropriate space for each factory or industrial facility after obtaining approval. Urban planning, and upon completion of these procedures, all permits are approved by the governorate.
    If the license is for investment, the property is transferred in the name of the Investment Authority and a contract is organized with the investor. However, if the license is through industrial development, the contracts are organized in the municipality and supervised by the Department of Industry.
    Despite this, the director of the Semil Municipality Department confirms that there are refineries in the Kouachi area that operate without an official license, and that his department did not grant their owners licenses or arrange contracts for them.
    He points out one of the ways of bypassing the law: “In the beginning, lands were allocated and licenses were granted for specific projects. Later, their owners transgressed and changed the type of work without our approval. Warnings were issued to them and they were given time periods to work according to the licenses granted to them, each according to the type assigned to them, otherwise the license would be withdrawn.” Those who are not committed have already been referred to the competent courts.” 
    The author of the investigation obtained information indicating that the managements of a number of refineries obtained special exceptions, provided that they adhere to the regulations regarding the work of the refineries. In response, the director of the Semil municipality says, “These refineries are unofficial and cannot be granted licenses. The refineries are affiliated with the Ministry of Natural Resources, and their departments must obtain their licenses from there, and so far we have not received any license regarding them from that ministry.”
    Dohuk environment procedures
    All environmental stakeholders that were contacted confirm that factories and oil refineries in Kwashi cause environmental damage, some of which are serious.
    This fact is embodied in the legal measures taken by the Dohuk Environment Department against violating facilities between 2019 and 2022, according to human rights activist Sherwan Akram, head of the Legal Division, who revealed that his department fined 34 refineries and factories in Kwashi, and that the fines were imposed according to the degree of pollution occurring. 
    Akram says that specialized environmental committees are constantly monitoring the sources of pollution, whether they belong to companies or private individuals, and that fines were imposed directly by his department at first, but since 2022 the task has become the jurisdiction of the Misdemeanor Court, while the Environment Department is involved in cases as a complainant. .
    According to this transformation, between 2022 and 2023, the Department of Environment filed 32 lawsuits against factories and oil refineries in Kouachi. Human rights activist Shirwan says: “We filed the lawsuits as a complainant through the Public Prosecution in the Smil Misdemeanor Court, and financial penalties were imposed on many of them in accordance with the instructions of the Protection Authority.” And improving the environment No. (2) of 2023 amended, and there are still lawsuits that have not yet been resolved.”
    Regarding exceptions, he explained that 12 refineries were exempted from stopping work “due to their compliance with environmental instructions, even though their work is not completely consistent with these instructions.”
    For his part, the Public Prosecutor in the Semele Court, Hakim Abdel Wahed Yunus, says that they sent several letters and correspondence to the relevant authorities regarding violations in the Kouachi area, including a letter to the Semele District Investigation Court, guaranteeing the opening of an investigation and taking legal measures against (20) refineries and refineries. Oil owners have encroached on state lands and illegally seized them, causing the emission of toxic gases that harm the environment and the health of citizens.”
    Younis confirms that violators will expose themselves to penalties that may include imprisonment, a fine, or both penalties. According to the provisions of the Environmental Protection and Improvement Law No. (8) of 2008, fines reach 200 million Iraqi dinars.
    It was not possible for the investigator to know the details of the open cases, given that they are in the investigation phase, but legal sources stated that settlements may occur, through the owners of these refineries pledging to take the necessary measures to reduce the harm of gaseous emissions through the use of exhausts placed on top of the torches, and the treatment of their liquid waste. In environmentally acceptable ways.
    Waste sorting plant
    According to the Semil District Municipality, official approvals were granted to make Kwashi an industrial zone in 2005, and ten years later many factories were opened there, which began to dispose of their liquid and solid waste without treatment and in the absence of establishing a sound drainage structure that does not threaten the environment. Then refineries joined, adding their liquid waste and untreated gaseous emissions.
    Government agencies had anticipated the work of factories and refineries by establishing a factory for waste sorting and fertilizer production on an area of ​​(1,360,000 square metres) that was operated in May 2011, but the factory, which was supposed to treat solid waste and reduce some sources of pollution, in turn became a source of pollution in Kawachi! . 
    Jian Suleiman, a lecturer at the University of Dohuk, discussed this project in her study, entitled (Recycling of Solid Waste in the Kwashi Industrial Zone - A Study in the Geography of Pollution), in which she stated that the waste was brought to the factory from three main sources: “Dohuk, Semil, and IDP camps” at a daily average of 850 To 950 tons, in addition to one ton of waste resulting from activities in the Kwashi area itself.”
    While the factory’s capacity ranges between 250-300 tons, the remaining quantities are buried in an incorrect manner from an environmental standpoint, as they are buried in a regular pit and covered with only 10 cm thick soil. Sometimes this waste is burned before the landfill process as a result of the interaction of the materials. Together, this leads to pollution of the surrounding environment, soil and water.
    The study, published by the Scientific Journal of the University of Dohuk, also revealed that the waste sorting process in the factory is not carried out with high efficiency, and that 50% of the sorted waste is not used: “Which leads to its accumulation in the landfill near the factory, and this waste is mostly wet, Which leads to the emission of harmful gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, which increase the occurrence and frequency of fires in the landfill due to methane being a self-combustion gas.”
    Also, large quantities of water are used to treat waste to become organic fertilizer: “The soil is polluted with high levels of nitrate ion NO-3, which exceed the needs of plants and lead to their death, in addition to the emission of foul-smelling gases, such as hydrogen sulfur gas (H2S), to which plants are exposed.” factory workers on a daily basis, which puts them at a negative impact in the long term,” according to the study.
    Kwashi landfill area

    Researcher Jian pointed out that the small space allocated for burying waste and its inability to accommodate all the waste thrown into it from the waste sorting plant, leads to the accumulation of waste in the open, to be burned or exposed to sunlight and heat and burned automatically, “and in both cases it causes environmental pollution.”
    The author of the investigation obtained information that the Dohuk Environment Department imposed a fine on the waste sorting plant due to the presence of exposed waste in the landfill area, but the problem was not addressed despite this.
    Engineer Hassan Al-Bamerni, a specialist in the chemical field and responsible for the Urban Environment Department in the Dohuk Environment Department, explains aspects of the problem of waste treatment in Kwashi. He says, there are two landfills. If the waste is household, it is sorted in the sorting plant and buried in the regular landfill, and other waste goes to the informal landfill and is buried directly there without sorting.
    He added: "Leachate comes out of the waste, which in turn goes to the treatment plant, but the treatment unit in the waste sorting plant is incomplete and has many deficiencies that have effectively disrupted its work."
    He believes that the pollution in the Kawachi area is the result of waste produced by factories of all types, whether related to petroleum derivatives, food factories, iron smelting factories, etc. 
    He points out that some laboratories have primitive treatment units, such as “the tanning factory, the battery industry, and others. They do not reach the desired level of treatment, according to the environmental conditions, so treatment there is relative.”
    With the dangers represented by the interaction of solid and liquid wastes with the soil and their penetration into the groundwater, Engineer Hassan warns of the danger of gaseous emissions issued by industrial and oil activities. “They dissolve with the rain falling on the soil, affect the amount of acidity in it, and affect the groundwater.”
    In this regard, it is noteworthy that an artesian well in the nearby “Marina” residential area, affected by Kwashi pollutants, “was recently closed by the Water Department to prevent it from causing diseases to the residents.”
    He points out the reason why factories and refineries are not held directly accountable for the pollutants they secrete: “The facilities there do not have sewers designated for each of them, and their number is large, so the leaks occur randomly without accurately identifying the source, so we will not be able to identify the culprit in order to take action against him.”
    The author of the investigation tried to communicate with the administrations of a number of factories and oil refineries in Kwashi regarding their waste, the pollution they cause, and the measures they are taking to limit its damage, but he did not receive a response from any of them. Legal restrictions also prevented him from accessing the merits of the cases filed against some of them because they are still in the investigation phase.

    Distress calls
    Abu Ahmed (46 years old), a daily-wage construction worker who lives in the “Marina” complex, believes that pollution coming from industrial facilities that do not operate in accordance with environmental requirements has exacerbated the illness of his eight-year-old son, who suffers from a heart problem.
    He expresses this with great concern by saying: "He has a problem with his heart valve, and the smoke from oil refineries and other laboratories and the unpleasant odors emanating from their waste cause him shortness of breath and worsen his condition."
    He added, his eyes following the smoke rising from the exhausts of nearby refineries: “So far, I have spent $20,000 to treat him in the region and outside of it, some of it from my savings and the rest from loans I owe, but this will not be enough to cure him.”
    Pointing to where the refineries are, he added: “The government must find a solution to the pollution on the ground, in our waters, and in the skies that cover us.”
    Local media and social media platforms are constantly circulating distress calls from people in the areas surrounding Kwashi to government agencies to intervene in order to stop the pollution. 
    Ramadan Majeed, a doctor specializing in the field of cancer, confirms that the Kwashi area suffers from “severe pollution” whether in the soil, water or air. “The level of acidity and salts there is high, which seeps into the soil with rainwater.”
    The doctor, who is active in the field of raising awareness of the danger of environmental pollution and its effects on public health, and has research in this field, believes that polluted water that penetrates into the soil extends its negative impact to trees and other plants as well as animals.
     He added: "It also threatens the groundwater on which residents depend greatly to obtain fresh water through artesian wells," which he considers a source of concern due to their increased possibility of exposure to disease.
    Doctor Ramadan points out that estimates by the World Health Organization indicate that 30% of cases of stroke, heart attack, and cancer are due to atmospheric pollution, that is, the air. He warns that “air pollution can cause diseases, especially when polluted particles are mixed with water or inhaled, which is what happens in Kwashi,” he says firmly.
    The oncologist revealed that he is currently busy completing laboratory analyzes of the air, soil and water in the Kwashi region, because he believes that Kwashi is one of the main sources causing the increase in the rate of cancer in the region.
    Although there is no evidence or statistics linking the incidence of some dangerous diseases to pollution in areas where these industrial facilities are spread that are not subject to global environmental standards, researchers link the high rates of infection with these diseases to the increase in pollutants in recent years.
    According to the statistics of the Dohuk Health Presidency, the number of registered cases of cancer increased in the region from 486 cases recorded in 2013, to 1,180 cases recorded in 2023, with the highest level of infections recorded in 2022, which amounted to 1,434 cases. 
    Regarding the Semil district, which is close to the source of pollution in Kouachi, the Health Directorate’s statistics indicated that only 10 cases were recorded in 2013, which increased more than six-fold in ten years, as 68 cases were recorded in 2023.
    At a time, health sources indicate that a portion of the infection cases are not recorded in the Kurdistan region, as their patients resort to treatment outside the country, especially in light of the lack of hospitals specialized in cancer diseases in most of the cities of the region. 
    Ecosystem disruption
    The author of the investigation conducted an inspection tour of the sources of pollution in Kawachi, with the university professor specializing in environmental affairs, Dr. Najm al-Din Nairoi, who confirmed that the region was exposed to an imbalance in the ecosystem.
    He says that "only 1% of waste material residue in polluted water negatively affects the composition and function of microorganisms in soil and drinking water, which can lead to disturbances in the balance of the environment."
    Nairoi warns that the maximum permissible limit for solid salts dissolved in water should not exceed 500 mg/L, “however, the research I conducted in the Kwashi area showed that it exceeds this limit six times, and this constitutes a serious threat to the environment.”
    He explains: "This increase in pollutants can reduce biodiversity and negatively affect living organisms, including fish. These effects are also reflected in the safety of other animals, such as livestock that depend on the region's resources."
    He believes that government directions for treating polluted wastewater, which is the water resulting from industrial processes, are often not based on sound scientific foundations, despite the efforts it makes and the instructions it issues, “as most residential and industrial projects and factories do not adhere to them.”
    In turn, Dr. warns. Mustafa Ismail Mustafa, a professor in the Department of Land and Water at the Faculty of Agricultural Engineering at the University of Dohuk, stressed the danger of water pollution resulting from heavy industries in the Kwashi region to human health in general and to animals in particular.
    Mustafa, in a study published in 2022 in the International Journal of Health Sciences, entitled “The Impact of Industrial Surplus on the Environment of Sheep in the Kawachi Region,” concluded that the scarcity of water resources in this region, especially during the summer, forces animals to drink water contaminated with waste and raw materials. .
    The study showed that factory emissions contain: “nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and hydrogen sulfide,” and volatile organic compounds such as methane, which lead to the spread of respiratory diseases among sheep, leading to the death of large numbers of them every year.
    According to Dr. Mustafa, about ten thousand sheep are infected with various diseases as a result of ingesting heavy sewage water that leaks across the plain of the Silifani area until it reaches the Mosul Dam and the Kwashi area located on its way. Research investigations also showed that 50% of the sheep suffered a miscarriage within a year. just one. 
    The researcher confirmed the presence of dangerous elements that exceeded the limits set by the World Health Organization, such as (cadmium and lead) in the blood of livestock and milk, as well as in the blood samples of people living in that region. Which makes the possibility of cancer in children very high. 
    The author of the investigation noted that the regulatory authorities have realized the impact of Kwashi pollution on livestock. Therefore, the Dohuk Environment Department imposes fines on the owners of livestock that graze in the area, and this was confirmed by human rights activist Shirwan Akram, official of the Legal Division in the department.
    He said that his department had previously imposed a fine on the owner of a livestock herd amounting to 8 million Iraqi dinars (more than 6 thousand dollars) due to the presence of his herd near polluted areas in Kwashi.
    The effects of pollution on the soil are now worrying the region's farmers. Hajj Abdul Aziz (73 years old), a resident of the village of "Kulmini", which is about 15 kilometers from Kwashi, says: "With everything I hear about the dangers, I no longer dare to grow anything."
    He added in a disapproving tone: “The village was previously a source of many vegetables and fruits, but with the emergence of industrial facilities, the lands became dry areas unsuitable for agriculture,” pointing out
    Polluted water began to mix through natural sewers with village water, which was considered a major source of irrigation, which led to crop damage. 
    Haj Abdul Aziz looks around him and says, "Now we only grow wheat and wheat that depend on rainwater. As for the rest of the crops, we have abandoned their cultivation."
    Solutions and procedures
    To confront the sources of pollution in Dohuk, which specialists warn of its effects on human, animal and plant health, the Dohuk Environment Directorate shows its seriousness in confronting polluters.
    The director of the department, Engineer Dilshad Abdul Rahman, says that they hold accountable all those responsible for polluting the environment, whether they are individuals, institutions, or commercial entities. “We take the necessary legal measures and refer violators to justice.” 
    He confirms their move to confront any pollution in the water, “We respond to citizens’ complaints or to information that arrives through official bodies such as the municipality and the Water and Sewage Department, and after analyzing samples in the laboratory based on the two main tests (BOD-COD) and when the results exceed the levels specified by the World Health Organization.” The Directorate takes administrative and legal measures against violators.”
    The matter also applies to solid waste, such as ordinary or industrial waste, as well as gaseous emissions, as they are investigated, fines are imposed, and violators are referred to the judiciary in many cases. 
    Counseling lawyer Abdullah Muhammad Ibrahim points out that the provisions of Law No. (8) of 2008 regarding the protection and improvement of the environment in the Kurdistan region of Iraq address tort liability and compensation for damage. Article (21) gives those affected by environmental pollution the right to sue individuals or parties causing it. Damage resulting from negligence or personal actions. 
    He stresses the importance of those causing the pollution bearing their responsibility to compensate those affected, remove the damage, and restore the situation to what it was before the event, and that in the event of negligence or failure to take the necessary measures, the concerned authorities have the right to take the necessary measures to remove the damage, with the responsible person bearing the administrative costs and expenses, taking into account The degree of danger of polluting materials and the impact of pollution on the environment.
    The existence of these laws did not actually prevent the continuation of pollution, so activists and specialists believe that the problem is not in the laws, but in their application. Among them is an environmental activist who requested that his name not be mentioned. He said that the pollution caused by oil factories and refineries in Kawachi “reaches a national extent of 22 km".
    He notes that thousands of cases of respiratory allergies were recorded by health authorities in Semil and nearby areas during the year 2023 alone due to gaseous emissions coming from the oil refineries in Kawachi. 
    He believes that the real solution is not to impose fines and issue warnings, but rather to immediately stop the work of all these refineries without any exceptions and force them to dismantle them or take measures to prevent harm from their gaseous and liquid emissions, “such as installing pollution-preventing exhausts in torches and effective treatment units for liquid waste.”
    As well as forcing other factories in the region to deal with their waste and waste in a manner consistent with environmental determinants, monitoring the work of the waste sorting plant in the region, and forcing it to work in accordance with environmental conditions.
    The environmental activist asks, "What is the point of being referred to the courts and returning to carrying out its work without committing to anything actual? It is true that there are refineries whose work has been suspended until they take the necessary measures to prevent environmental damage, but there are others that continue to operate and pollute the environment day and night."
    A Bedouin friend (57 years old), a retired employee, who lives with his ten family members in the “Bastaki” complex, says that “400 families live in the complex, all of whom find themselves day after day surrounded by the smell of toxic pollutants, especially in the period after sunset and until the morning.” The next day". He added sharply: "We cannot sleep even for a minute on the roofs of our homes in the summer months, as we have been accustomed to for decades." 
    He points out that he and the rest of the residents are forced to constantly close doors and windows. “We cannot even operate air coolers because they draw in polluted air.”
    A friend has no source of income other than his salary. Like others, he faces financial problems with the irregular distribution of salaries in Kurdistan. “My house is not worth anything so I can sell it and buy a house somewhere else, so it is difficult for us to leave and save our lives, as those who were able did.”
    He takes a deep breath and adds bitterly: “I have no choice but to stay amidst the dangers of these pollutants, or to rent a house in another area, but then how will I manage the living of ten people when the entire salary will go to the rent?”

    Source: NERIJ Network within the “Environmental Journalism” project managed by Internews
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