Volunteers in Anbar Address Environmental Degradation of the Euphrates River
Ramadi in Anbar Governorate is one of 10 cities part of the environmental monitoring network of Humat Dijlah, partner organisation of Save the Tigris. Ramadi, largest city of Anbar, located 110km from Baghdad, extends along the Euphrates River and continues to suffer from extensive water pollution. Recently, a team of volunteers took the lead to follow up on environmental issues and adress them in order to imitigate the environmental crisis in their city. During the first half of 2021, the team conducted public campaigns to raise awareness on environmental protection and water rights in Ramadi area, within Humat al-Furat (Euphrates River Protectors), sister organisation of Humat Dijlah. The group has liaised with the Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources and Anbar Environmental Directorate.
The group monitors the water levels of the Euphrates River, particularly the outflow of the Ramadi Dam. They collect data on the waterlevels on a weekly basis, and have discussed with the Joint Coordination Center (JCC) crisis management plans in times of water scarcity, which are common during summer. Humat al-Furat Ramadi also mapped sites of river pollution along the Euphrates River, particularly major sites of waste. The data was shared with the Directorate of Environment and the Directorate of Water Resources of Anbar governorate in order to address such violations through a warning or legal order for clean-up by the court. A major issue is the presence of toxic waste from recent warfare. In some cases unexploded war remnants were detected in the Euphrates River. These were removed after having shared its location with the Environment Directorate.
In some cases, private companies were taken to Ramadi court for polluting the river. A case was created against the Ramadi Sand Factory, which allegedly violated the legislation on pollution. The case was finalized last spring with the closure of their plant through a judicial order until the factory put in place proper waste systems. To halt the dumping of waste by the edges of the Euphrates river, Humat al-Furat Ramadi proposed to contruct a corniche by the banks. This proposal was adopted by Ramadi Municipality. Following a joint meeting at the Ramadi Dam site, a major clean-up campaign was launched in early 2021 at the banks of the Euphrates River, implemented by the Ministry of Water Resources and the local volunteers of Humat al-Furat.
The team has also monitord the fish and bird population of the area. Migratory bird species returned to Anbar after having disappeared after 2013 as a consequence of the conflict with Daesh. In case there was evidence of overfishing or illegal birdhunting, official complaints were submitted to authorities.
To reach out across the local population, Humat al-Furat Ramadi met with religious leaders, including the chief Sunni scholar Dr. Sheikh Abdul-Malik Al-Saadi, with the request to encourage worshippers during Friday prayers to refrain from the dumping of waste and keep the rivers clean. In addition, several tribal leaders were consulted and requested to encourage, environmentally sound behaviors from local communities.
Humat al-Furat Ramadi continues to monitor the Euphrates River in Anbar.