The Pollution Solution – Mapping Iraq’s Environmental Needs

Map of iraq

Iraq is polluted. In fact the significant levels of pollution in Iraq are such an open secret that people simply accept that this is the way it is, along with the cancers and health problems it causes.  Much of this pollution is the result of decades of war and unrest; with military waste and deforestation representing just two (of many) contributory factors. However, that is not the end of the story.

Many studies and field surveys cite Iraq as one of the ‘worst examples’ of pollution in the world. However policy makers are slowly realizing that, tackling what is widely considered to be an almost impossible challenge can be eased by harnessing the private sector. The incentive? Real income for SME’s and communities, with intertwined social and economic values creating the dynamism needed to tackle issues head on. In their ‘Building Competitive Green Industries Report’ the World Bank estimates that the clean technology opportunity available to developing world SMEs over the next decade is worth the $1.6 trillion. To ensure Iraq takes full advantage of this opportunity, driving economic growth through environmental action, we at Nina have taken it upon ourselves to create a map.  Building awareness of need and so stimulating local innovation and business growth is the first step to a ‘Pollution Solution’ for Iraq.


Indiscriminate Construction: Kurdistan

“Outside the cities, houses are built indiscriminately. People don’t feel the responsibility; they are damaging the beauty of the area. If people continue to work with no plan, their future well-being will be affected.”

Anton Thynell, works in the area of commerce in Sweden and member of IPLA for environmental protection

Erbil is the capital of tourism, but does not meet world water safety standards. Furthermore, there are currently no concrete plans in place for linking the many new builds to a safe source of clean water for all. Tanjaro (near Suleimania) saw the worst pollution levels, with water considered to be “dangerously polluted”.

“Open your eyes, oil can never replace water.” Jonas Rottorp, Swedish expert in water and cleansed water


  • The government should make clean water a priority. The Swedish government planned a strategic recovery from poor water in Stockholm and it was successful. Nowadays, it is Sweden’s best city in terms environmental purity.
  • The government should incentivize farming and link this to an environmental road map.
  • Kurdish people should mobilize, linking to countries such as Sweden and organisations such as the ILPA. Benefit from experience and use this to insist the government implements a long-term environmental strategy, instead of focusing on short term reward.


Water Image NinaWater Pollution: Karbala

Drinking water safety is a problem in Karbala. This is heightened by the fact that there are only two small rivers in Karbala province which cover 70% of province’s needs. In a recent study other factors were identified also:

  • Construction of illegal sewage networks
  • Leakage of fuel from the power plants and irrigation pumps
  • Legacy community water filtering projects that were installed without supervision or safeguards and are often ill-equipped


  • Awareness: In previous years the water quality analyses showed that the rate of bacterial failure has raised by 27% while the permitted rate is only 5%. Understanding the level of problem meant regional government was able to work towards a solution.
  • Training and Expertise: The lack of knowledge of workers in the water compound facilities was identified as a key issue. University degree workers were therefore employed by the Karbala Water Directorate to supervise quality filtration and sterilization. The rate of failure was thus reduced from 27% to 8%.
  • Physical Change: Environment Department requested the Directorate of Water Resources in Karbala to provide designs of river buffers to prevent farmers from throwing fuel waste.

Image from Bagdhad pollution

Military Operations Waste: Falluja

In recent years, high rates of miscarriage and toxic levels of lead and mercury and depleted uranium contamination have led to spiraling numbers of birth defects being recorded. These range from congenital heart defects to brain dysfunctions and malformed limbs. For example, in a recent press statement the Anbar Department of Health revealed an increase in the rate of birth malformation cases for the new-born children, which they have linked to the effects of the waste of military operations. It has formed specialized medical committees to follow up the malformation cases in the province, indicating that more than 200 birth malformation cases have occurred in Falluja city alone.

“The rate of birth malformations in Falluja is frighteningly high and cause concern and continues to occur in the areas of military activities.” Nadhum S. Al-Hadidi, spokesperson, Falluja Hospital


Awareness: International recognition of the problem is necessary along with the financial and practical support needed to kick-start extensive environmental sampling of food, water and air to establish cause.

Immediate Expertise: In terms of immediate health needs specialized committees have been created to follow up the cases of malformation of children. A consultation clinic for maternity and fetus medicine has been opened along with one for genetic diseases and congenital malformations.

Long-term Need: The private sector should be involved in the clean-up once cause has been established, thus creating opportunity from adversity. This tragic problem therefore represents an opportunity for the region to build local green industries from SMEs wanting to participate in sustainable economic growth whilst reaping environmental benefits.

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