Youth of Nineveh Governorate are preparing to launch environmental campaigns to confront the effects of pollution and the deterioration of the environment in their governorate. To support this endeavor, Save the Tigris together with Humat Dijlah Association organized a specialized training on environmental campaigning and advocacy. The training, which was held in Mosul, involved 20 young men and women from different cities of Nineveh Governorate. The training, which for two days (7-8 February 2020) addressed the most prominent principles and strategies for environmental advocacy, focusing on the topics of pollution and organizing mechanisms for effective campaigning.
Mosul, which suffered under the occupation of Daesh from 2014 to 2017, endured a near complete destruction of its infrastructure and basic service facilities. Additionally, the occupation critically damaged the local environment. The war that took place to liberate the city affected the environment through increased pollution in the air, water and soil. This has had its impact on the residents.
During the horrifying three years under Deash’ control, many oil-related industries were severely damaged: the destruction of crude oil refineries, wellheads, and pipelines caused leaks of heavy chemicals and the emission of toxic gases. Sabotage and neglect affected heavy water and wastewater treatment plants which started leaking polluted water into nearby rivers or directly into the soil where it mixed with groundwater. Massive fires started by Daesh continued for months during the battle for liberation and as a result, years of war and displacement have caused thousands of hectares of arable farm land to perish. It will be difficult to revitalize Iraq’s “green thumb” in Nineveh. The case of Qayyarah is representative: toxins in the soil and sediment as a result of acid rain have discharged pollutants into rivers, toxifying the Tigris and other rivers.
“While the burning oil wells and severely damaged industrial sites were a visual magnet for the media, vividly showing the toxic horrors of war, interest in the long-term health consequences of exposure to conflict pollution soon faded after the fires were extinguished. Although the journalists have moved on, the people living in areas where these toxic remnants of war are present will have to face the aftermath of the conflict’s environmental legacy: air pollution from the burning wells; oil soot that spread over a vast area, covering soil and affecting livestock; groundwater pollution; and crude oil and wastewater spills,” Pax for Peace described the reality on the ground in their “Living under a black sky” report from December 2017. It concluded that the conflict that took place in Nineveh has left a deep imprint on the local environment. The impact is so deep that it inevitably hinders any efforts to rebuild the governorate, and in the long run it will continue to affect local populations, both in terms of health and livelihoods.
The youth of Mosul and Nineveh Governorate who participated in the training expressed their understanding of the magnitude of the environmental crisis. Having lived through the scourge of war and having witnessed tragic scenes of massive destruction, they are determined to repair what was destroyed by the war, repair their region’s ecosystem and restore the environment. The youth suggested to campaign among populations in Ninewah to foster environmental awareness. Future campaigns would be implemented by Humat Dijlah Association.