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November 7, 2012

For the Caretakers in Kurdistan 

Kurdishaspect.com - By - Bakhtiar Zuhdi

The time is ticking. Kurdistan is on the map. The eyes of the largest corporations in the world are on us. Kurdistan is emerging fast. We must be ready for it.

A decade of brutal repression and genocide may have left with us a culture of fear, uncertainty and lack of confidence, especially with our older generation. The Kurdish baby boomer or the young generation of after the 1990s is accountable for half of our total population in Kurdistan; they have no fear in mind nor are they connected to the morass of the past. They look at the future through deferent lenses. They were borne free and they hope to stay free. The freedoms they seek are self -reliance with equal opportunity for all to be wealthy, happy and free. 

Our region is rich with natural beauty, untapped resources, fresh water and fertile land. This place was once called the cradle of humanity. Today, with its buried history, Kurdistan is coming back to become a viable, stable and prosperous oasis for this region.

In today’s dynamic world, we must become a good steward for our land and the people we serve. We should show the new generation how to appreciate, protect and improve these natural treasures.

Our experience in self-rule may be new. The political and social changes taking place around Kurdistan are also new and positive. Our leadership should be flexible to accept and quickly adopt good changes. The changes we look to see are the one taking our people forward.

Our prosperity depends on a sound economic system with a level playing field for all of us. Our young system can bring these dreams to reality gradually. We can build the foundation of a system that provides these basic freedoms and a good quality life for us. 

With the power of the people in our system, the KRG can move forward to set high goals and a clear destiny. In this endeavor, we need good guidance and a balanced approach to work with. The Kurdish Parliament needs to adopt and outline good and comprehensive policies that can be implemented by the KRG. The opportunities to do it right are here. The challenge is on all of us together.  . Today, in the face of the rush to be rich, to own property, to have cars, or build an empire, we are taking our eyes off the ball. Our major cities in Kurdistan have fallen victim to this “gold rush” phenomenon. Blocks after blocks of multi-story residential buildings mixed with commercial building have been built or 

are under construction. Unknown private corporations are behind these projects that have no rational planning,www.ekurd.net zoning or building standards. These new developments are conducive to cause migration of local people from the rural areas to the cities or from the southern part of Iraq to Kurdistan without any restriction and control. These developments have created a condition subjecting everyone to chaotic congestion, traffic jams, artificial inflation, and unsafe health conditions. Another growing problem facing our people is not just limited to the lack of jobs for the new generation; it is a problem paralyzing our young system from moving forward. The problem is corruption and inefficiency in the system. This phenomenon is seen through-out Iraq. Kurdistan has a lion’s share of it, too. Corruption and inefficiency are in the healthcare, agriculture, education, industry, transportation, housing, urban planning and environmental sectors. The main reason is the lack of opportunity for equal access to be rich and the lack of government policy for each sector mentioned above. 

The KRG and the parliament are to be held accountable for the lack of progress in formulating policies after 2003. We are still operating in the shadow of the past. Political parties are choking all sensitive joints of the government and bringing real progress down to a halt.

The construction boom today is chaotic at best. People are confused and divided. For the limited few, the setup is great, but for the balance of the people, they are left to their own devices. The general population considers the government to be the source for everything. Granted, the government has done so much and still its hands are full with many side issues. The situation is not sustainable forever... It is our hope and aspiration to put forward some suggestions that our decision-makers can pay attention to.

Health Care and Environmental Condition: 

Due to the lack of healthcare and environmental policy, the system is structured to respond to events after the fact. With the population increase, health issues, food and water contamination, crude oil and gasoline spill, unsafe roads and traffic jam, air pollutions and a whole host of other possible contaminations could become the dominating problems in our region. The least visible and long-lasting effect is the problem of water contamination, which we will be mainly focusing on.

Drinking Water and Contaminants:

Drinking water quality will deteriorate over time due to population growth in the cities in Kurdistan. To maintain water quality, we must upgrade drinking water treatment facilities and maintaining source water quality as the first barrier to contaminants that could endanger public health and because drinking water treatment requirements are increasingly based on the levels of constituents present in source water.  In the process for developing the Drinking Water Policy, we must identify a list of prioritized water quality constituents of concern: 

  • Disinfection by-product precursors (DBP): organic carbon
  • Dissolved minerals: total dissolved solids, salinity 
  • Nutrients: nitrogen species (organic, nitrate, nitrite, ammonia) and phosphorus species (total, orthophosphate) 
  • Pathogens and indicator organisms 

Source of Contamination:

Because the infrastructure is still in an early stage of building, the contaminations could come from a variety of sources, such as:

  • Tourism activities and Urban Population Expansion.
  • Lack of swage system.
  • Lack of disposal site for municipal and industrial waist. 
  • Existing Water Distribution System. 

Lack of sewage System:

Organic contamination can enter the rivers and waterways in rainfall runoff, natural organic substances comeing from decaing natural organic matter (NOM) and from synthetic sources. Synthetic sources are insecticides , herbicides, and domestic and industrial wastewaters(Synthetic Organic Contaminants (SOCs) are man-made compounds used for a variety of industrial and agricultural purposes. This group of contaminants includes pesticides, PCBs, and dioxin. Synthetic Organic Contaminant health effects include damage to the nervous system, kidneys and cancer risks). Since the early 1970s, the TOC (Total Organic Carbone) has been recognized as an analytic technique to measure water quality during the drinking water purification process. This technique must be used in the purification process. 

The use of TOC measurments, shows the numbr of carbon-containing compounds in a source in mg/L. This method provides an important role in quantifying the amount of NOM in the water source. The water treatment facilities in Kurdistan use chloride containing disinfectants. When the raw water is chlorinated from Dokan, for example, active chlorine compounds react with NOM to produce chlorinated disinfection byproducts (DBPs). Many researchers have determined that higher levels of NOM in source water during the disinfection process will increase the amount of carcinogens in the processed drinking water.

Lake Dokan:

Slemani drinking water is coming from Lake Dokan. The water is pumped through a pipe line from Qashquly Pump Station to Slemani Water Tretment Place. The water purification process is by chlorinated disinfection, most of this water comes from Iraqi side of Kurdistan. Big cities such as Qaladezy, Ranya and Chwarqurna , Mawat and the region of Sharbazer comunities are located within the watershed of this lake. The Waist water from all these comunites is discharging to Lake Dokan ultimatly. 

Sirwan Revier and Alwand Rrvier:

The two major rivers Sirwan and Alwand are coming from Iran. Alwand water quality has changed and almost diminished due to a heavy use of water for agreculture activities betwen Sar Pol-e-Zahab and Qasri Shereen on the Iranian side. Both reviers have been obstructed from time to time for the construction of new dams and the diverging water.

Lake Darbandi Khan: 

This lake is located south-east of the city of Slemani. Slemanis population is reaching one million people. The rainfall runoff drainage system in the city is combine waste water with surface runoff in an underground gravity-box drain system. The row sewage flows to Tangarow River and from there to Lake Darbandi Khan. Other cities and towns in Shahrazoor valley have the same set up. The accumulated effects of these materials in Lake Darbandi Khan can be seen in summer when the tepreture rise and the oxygen depletion gets to a level that microorganisms grow in the form of black water that kills thousands of small fish in the water.

Municipal Disposal Site:

In the absence of infrastructure and regulations, the tourism industry and urban expansion will leave behind piles upon piles of garbage to be dealt with in sensitive and beautiful parts of the countryside. Most of this trash ends up in open garbage sites (Dump Sites) with women and young children picking up salvageable trash. In some municipal land fill,wt the city workers try to burn the trash in an open fire in order to get rid of the waste, but in the processes they create air pollution and ash that get dissolved in the surface runoff.

Many dump sites in rural areas attract animals and birds searching for food. No doubt the only food can be found is a contaminated and decomposed one. Today and after 20 years of Kurdish self-rule, our cities and rural areas lack sewage treatment facilities in general. This condition must be changed.

The Dust Storm and Flying Air Particles:

From Southern Iraqi deserts, dust storms reach Kurdistan and deposit many thousand tons of fine soil particles on mountains and valleys of Kurdistan. The runoff from these mountains carrying these dust particles end up in the lakes in Kurdistan. This happens almost every year in late spring through summer. These lakes need to be tested each year before and after the dust storm season to determine the salinity change, type and amount of dissolved minerals for each year from the storm. 

Existing Water Distribution System:

The water distribution system in the Kurdish cities is old, outdated, rusty, and leaking. These water system do not have the integrity to provide enough high pressure to be used in a fire fighting event. 

Introduction of organic matter into water systems occurs not only from living organisms, but also from purification and distribution system materials. A relationship may exist between endotoxins, microbial growth, and the development of biofilms on pipeline walls and biofilm growth within pharmaceutical distribution systems. A correlation is believed to exist between TOC concentrations and the levels of endotoxins and microbes. Sustaining low TOC levels helps to control levels of endotoxins and microbes and thereby the development of biofilm growth. 

In short, water contamination is happening in Iraqi Kurdistan. Our shallow underground water or surface water is not protected within the cities due to surface seepage of contaminants and leaky sewage systems. Our rivers and lakes are receiving untreated sewage during the rainy seasons. It is important to note that we have control over our side of the border to regulate and protect the quality of the water source. KRG should plan ahead to capture and store seasonal runoff each year and switch the source of drinking water from Lake Dokan and Darbandi Khan to these local storage sites in the future. 

Good Regulations to be considered by KRG:

While government cannot regulate natural hazards such as drought, floods, earthquake, it can regulate man-made contamination and control the amount of its releases.

In many countries, legislative and administrative measures have been adopted to deal with many man-made hazards and pollutants resulting from tourism, urban expansion, and industrial and agriculture activities.

Below is a short list of some laws in many countries around the globe that can help us in the fight agonist contamination. These laws can be rewritten to suit Kurdistan. 

1. Clean Air Act 2. Clean Water Act 3. Waste Disposal Act 4. Public Health Act. 5. Pure Food Act. 6. Construction and Safety Act. 7. Factories, Shops and Industries Act. 8. Stock Food and Medicines Act. 9. Pesticide Act. 10. Environmental Planning and Assessment Act.

In Kurdistan as we move forward, we need a strong coherent policy to deal with all of the issues mentioned. We need a clean drinking water, water conservation and soil conservation policy. We need a strong land management policy to identify and dedicate all known scenic routes, mountains and historic places or landmarks as a national treasure and they should be protected by law and exempt from privatization, industry use, and mining and oil explorations. 

Establishing these policies will keep our watersheds in a healthy condition and minimize the amount of effort to clean drinking water and reduce the burden on the system. We need an agriculture policy that keeps agricultural lands for agriculture use only, an industry policy that protects the environment and people from toxic waste and a health care policy that provides facilities with the latest equipments and training for the staff, a policy that emphasizes prevention and education. Finally, we need an education policy that raises the general awareness, and add environmental study in the early stages of education.

KRG needs to adopt a very coherent policy and begin to implement them over a few years. Today, large corporations are here to drill, or to build infrastructure. We need to have these laws and clear policies so that any public contract signed will implement the spirit of these policies. It is a solemn duty of our system to elevate life and liberty and the wellbeing of our people in a safe manner. 

Independent Protection Agencies for KRGs consideration:

Our parliament needs to pass regulations and create an independent watchdog agency that can help the implementation of these new policies and report back to the parliament. The parliament needs to lay down the rights and the responsibilities of each agency. Below are some examples of new agencies to be considered:

  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Water Quality Control Board
  • Air Quality Control Board
  • Beroué of land Management
  • Occupational Health and Safety Commission or Agency ( OSHA)
  • Transportation Quality Agency (TQA)

These agencies not only can work with KRG to properly implement these programs that will be pursued by various ministries, but also report back to the special committees in parliament for follow up and monitoring process.

Suggested Solutions:

Under the water protection policy, we need to provide sewage treatments facilities for rural and urban areas as follows: 1. For Rural Areas: It should be a mandatory condition on the region’s budget to construct large Holding Tank (Septic Tank) and Leach field away from the water source in every village or community in Kurdistan that is located on riverbanks.  2. For every group of communities or villages, construct sanitary sewage treatment plants based on population usage and geographic location. Contract out the service for each village to transport the (Sludge) to these treatment plants on a regular basis for process. This program can help the private sector creating jobs and control the amount of carbon in our water. 3. For Urban Areas, construct a new sewage system with sewer pipes separate from the old box system. Dedicate the existing system (Box System) to storm drain only. 4. Construct new sewage treatment plants for all major cities and recycle the effluents for landscaping and agriculture purpose.  5. Under the water conservation policy, government should help the private sector  establish small ponds and lakes on their private property. Encourages the use of hydroponics systems to grow fish and vegetable with the same water, to use drip irrigations and greenhouse and to help farmers create local, natural, organic fertilizer. 6. Government must adopt a policy to nationalize and dedicate all important  mountains above certain elevations, historical places and landmarks as national treasures to be preserved forever. 7. Improve on the quality of our roads and bridges and establish mass transit for and between the main cities, enforce speed limits, provide side fences, overpass and underpass for pedestrians and animals, rest areas on the main roads equipped with restrooms, gas stations, and coffee shops at every few kilometers, provide public emergency phone at every few kilometers of the road. This program will help minimize accidents and land and water pollution and should be on the priority list for this government.  8. Establish public parks and picnic areas with full service and collect fees for security and maintenance. Private sectors should be allowed to open private picnic areas with the city permit meeting all required conditions from the new agencies in charge. No picnic should be allowed outside the formal picnic area.  9. Construct new water purification facilities and adopt the latest technology with modernized new water distribution systems.  10. Construct Water Storage-small dams not to exceed 20 meters in height to capture all storm runoff for reuse as drinking water.  11. Under these collective policies, continued education and taking license examination to do business in Kurdistan must be mandatory for our professionals in the engineering, medical and pharmaceutical fields. 

Bakhtiar Zuhdi is: Registered Professional Civil Engineer @ State of California 1986 M.S. Soil/Hydraulic Engineering Principal Engineer at B. A. Zuhdi Consulting Engineers since 2000  M.S., Civil Engineering, 1979, University of Mississippi  B.S., Civil Engineering, 1969, University of Basra, Iraq  Published Paper: "Transport of Sediment along Crop-Row Furrows" (ASAE), Report No. 81-7056, Orlando, Florida, June 24, 1981. "Outstanding Project of the Year" Award, ASGE/CAL in 1986 for the Pier 39 Breakwater Project. Project of the Year 1998, ENVIRONMENT $ 2M-10M ,APWA Top Ten Award throughout USA for the Charleston Slough Restoration. City of Mountain View, CA  President of Kurdish Relief Aid/ California, None Profit Organization Since 1987 Publisher of Azadi Kurdistan Quarterly  E-mail: bakhtiarzuhdi@yahoo.com

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