Rethinking Iraq’s Outdoors

Mawat, March 2011 2
Mawat, Sulaymaniyah, Iraq

Popular images of desert and sand cloud the public perception of what Iraq looks like today. The world gives little recognition to the beautiful mountains, landscapes and rivers that encompass the magnificent countryside. EPIC’s friend and partner, Nature Iraq, is one of the organizations working to protect, restore, and preserve Iraq’s rich natural environment for future generations.

Unfortunately, severe environmental problems are threatening these resources today in three major ways. Firstly, clean water supplies are jeopardized by a lack of regulation, awareness and protection, as well as foreign water projects altering the flow of rivers into Iraq. A similar pattern of lacking emissions and electricity regulations has led to a second problem of air and land pollution. This pollution is intensified by improper waste disposal and a lack of green belts and park systems. Finally, the biodiversity of Iraq has been adversely affected by the uncontrolled industrial, hydroelectric and oil development, as well as unrestrained animal hunting and trading.

Thus, Nature Iraq works to foster local engagement, decision-making and planning projects, while collecting scientific data and working within international guidelines for environmental restoration. Director Azzam Alwash was recently recognized as one of the top global thinkers by Foreign Policy “for saving the Garden of Eden.”

One of Nature Iraq’s most recent initiative aims to call attention to the need to protect Iraq’s rivers. Among these rivers is the Greater Zab river, a tributary of the Tigris flowing from the mountains of Turkey into northern Iraq and the last wild river in the country. The Greater Zab feeds many tributaries, including the Rawanduz River. These water sources provide vital environmental services by creating biodiversity and providing clean water, as well as great tourism opportunities to the region. However, pollution and poor resource-management have posed a threat to the sustainability of these rivers.

Speaking on behalf of Nature Iraq, Director of Conservation, Anna Bachmann talked about the nature of the issues plaguing these rivers by saying, “in the areas that are more secure such as Kurdistan, northern Iraq, there is a real thirst to develop as fast as possible and many of the mistakes we made in the West, polluting our waters and damming every tributary, are being repeated there. ”

To combat these concerns, this Spring, Nature Iraq is sending a team of professional kayakers, activists, and videographers to be the first to voyage the entire length of the Rawanduz River, located in Iraqi Kurdistan. Nature Iraq’s Waterkeepers Iraq Program, the Nature Iraq Foundation, American Canoe Association and Majestic Heights Outdoor Adventures are all working in conjunction to sponsor this trip. This trip follows a wildly successful Tigris River Flotilla in the fall of 2013.

The team will be reaching out to local communities along their journey to educate locals about river sustainability and protection. A short film of the trip will be produced upon completion of the expedition to further educate both local and international communities about the sustainability of these rivers as well as Eco-tourism opportunities.

The expedition is working to raise $10,000 through Indiegogo to cover the cost of the filmmaking. While the cost of the entire trip is estimated to be $70,000 with transportation, equipment and logistics, most of this funding will come from within Iraq or from the participants themselves. In order to donate to this worthy cause, you can visit the program website or the Indiegogo page directly.


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