The Iraq Foundation: Cleaning the Environment in Iraq

Cleaning The Environment in Iraq
(August 19, 2003)


Hasan Ahmed Al-Attar
Tuesday, August 19, 2003


[Part 1] | [Part 2] | [Part 3 | [Part 4]

Introduction

The environment in Iraq is a real disaster. This can be seen by the state of the health of the Iraqi people. The reappearance of many diseases is directly related to the environmental condition. in the country. In fact it is one of the despotic regime’s crimes against our people. The regime of Sadam had intentionally neglected this vital issue. His unsafe production and storage of chemical and biological weapons and later hushlly destroying them inside the rivers and underground caused many related illnesses. At his eight years of war against Iran and against the Iraqi Kurds, the regime of Sadam used a lots of chemical weapons that destroyed people, land, and water. During the second Gulf war, the allied forces used a lots of weapons that contain depleted uranium and its remain wreckage will cause a lot of concern for many generation to come.

The destruction of the Marsh Land has been proven to be very costly and unrepaired catastrophe.

Protecting the human health and safeguarding the natural environment -air, water, and land upon which life depend is a real honorable patriotic task. It is one of the most pressing issues if we want to build a free and modern society.

Solving the problems of the environment is very beneficent and save lives. It will save a lot of money that otherwise will be directed to treat many infectious diseases.

The damages in our environment is very deep and require very ambitious plans and cooperation of all constituency to solve it.

The new Government of Iraq has to have a clear strategy and approach for the environment set forth by its responsible political organ whether it be a Ministry for the Environment or similar entity enforcing the environmental laws.

CREATING A MINISTRY FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

The bulk of the environmental issues in Iraq require a special effort to repair the damage which had been inflicted by the despotic regime. Therefore we hope that our new Government will create a special ministry for this purpose. Its main role is in standard setting and should have the ability to delegate back to the various ministry the administration of the various media programs like water and air.

The mission of the ministry of the environment is to protect human health and to safeguard the natural environment-air, water, and land-upon which the life depends. The ministry purpose is to ensure that:

  • All Iraqi are protected from significant risk to human health and the environment were they live, learn and work.
  • National efforts to reduce environmental risk are based on the best available scientific information.
  • National laws protecting human health and the environment are enforced fairly and effectively.
  • Environmental protection is an integral consideration in Iraqi policies concerning natural resources, human health, economic growth, energy, transportation, agriculture, industry and international trade, and these factors are similarly considered in establishing environmental policy.
  • All parts of society-communities, individuals, business, have access to accurate information sufficient to effectively participate in managing human health and environmental risks.
  • Environmental protection contributes to making our communities and ecosystems diverse, sustainable and economically productive
  • The new Iraq plays a leadership role in working with other nations to protect the global environment.First and immediate action for the ministry of the environment is to clean up the remaining wreckage of the second Gulf war which contains depleted uranium. It is a radiation and chemical waste that is a carcinogenic. Safely disposing this wreckage requires cooperation of the nuclear countries and their experts.

    Second most important task is the cleaning and rehabilitation of the Marsh Land which represents a unique environment zone the homeland of the ancient Arab Marsh people and the birth place of many civilizations. It is a natural habitat for many birds, plants and its shallow water surface is suitable for many economics activities like the plantation of high quality rice and fishing activities. Its large water surface and the growth of wild vegetation ameliorates the harsh climate conditions in the southern part of Iraq.

    The despotic regime used alots of chemical and biological agencies to poison and kill the natural habitats and animals to force the people of the marshes flee their land. The regime intention was “justified” to hunt his opponents and to use this land to hide and later destroyed his chemicals and biological weapons.

    Iraq’s main production is the Oil and its Petrochemical industry, therefore the ministry of the environment has to establish a National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan for responding to both oil spills and hazardous substances release.

    Creating a National Environmental Protection Agency to plan and implement the above mentioned tasks and for all other strategic issues is very helpful in this endeavor. It is the Technical Arm of the Ministry of the Environment.

National Environment Protection Agency (N. E. P. A.)

Once a Ministry for the Environment is created, it should legislate an Environmental Act. Which governs environmental protection, where the effects on land, air, and water are considered simultaneously. This act should encourage environmental responsibility throughout the business and community sectors towards achieving a healthy environment alongside economic prosperity.

The environmental act should establish a Technical Arm to the Ministry of the Environment and to be a National entity covering all country. The board members of this agency should be appointed by the Government of Iraq or by the Environmental Authority based on their practical knowledge and experience in defined areas.

The board is a trusted educator and should be:

  • Independent and makes unbiased, balanced decisions based on best available advise
  • Open and responsive with its stakeholders
  • Professional in its business
  • Proactive and progressive
  • Provide quality and timely information and advice
  • Value the contribution of its supports and partnership organizations
  • Works constructively with the Ministry of the Environment and government of the day.The N.E.P.A.’s mission is to protect human health and the environment through responsible regulation supported by sound science, effective management and comprehensive environmental education. This goal can be achieved by cleaning the existing source of pollution and to develop and implement pollution prevention initiatives that effectively reduce pollutants in Iraq. This should be accomplished by emphasizing source reduction techniques, and as a second preference, environmentally sound recycling. Pollution Prevention avoids cross-media transfer of waste and/or pollutants and is multimedia in scope. It addresses all types of waste and environmental releases to the air, water, and land.
    Long Term Goals and Strategies

    1. Achieve implementation of pollution prevention practices by external customers through technical assistance.

    Strategies
    1. Provide education, training, and research on pollution prevention practices, including on-site assistance.
    2. Provide technology transfer, including demonstration of pollution prevention practices.

    3. Provide financial assistance. 4. Use quality related activities to continually improve services provided under this goal. 5. Work with other organizations to promote implementation of pollution prevention practices. 6. Develop and implement a plan to market the services of the pollution prevention.

    2. Incorporate pollution prevention into the standard practices of Iraqi government, business and non-governmental organizations

    Strategies:
    1. Assist business with incorporating pollution prevention into their standard operating procedures. 2. Assist in incorporating pollution prevention activities throughout all levels of government in Iraq.

    3. Effectively measure and communicate pollution prevention progress to internal and external customers.

    Strategies:
    1. Develop/Continue activities to quantitatively measure pollution progress by external customers. 2. Develop/Continue activities to qualitatively measure pollution progress by external customers. 3. Develop and publicized information indicating pollution prevention progress. 4. Continuously review and improve pollution prevention measures and efforts to communicate pollution prevention progress in the country.

    4. Develop and implement appropriate non-regulatory prevention initiatives.

    Strategies:
    1. Implement and promote appropriate national non-regulatory pollution prevention initiatives 2. Implement and encourage appropriate local non-regulatory pollution prevention initiatives. 3. Implement appropriate consumer non-regulatory pollution prevention initiatives. 4. Review and consider for adoption of additional non-regulatory pollution prevention initiatives 5. Develop and implement additional non-regulatory pollution prevention initiatives

    5. Continually Improve the quality of services provided to the customers

    Strategies:
    1. Participate in and periodically evaluate quality related activities. 2. Increase the level of input in determining the strategic directions of the Pollution Preventive Programs

National Safe Drinking Water Act (NSDWA)

The National Environmental Act shall legislate a National Safe Drinking Water Act to protect our surface and ground water. It is to protect the consumer by controlling the waterborne disease bacteria and viruses. The NSDWA is a set of regulated standards controlling the water contaminants based on sound science. It is a trusted solution in curbing the spread of disease such as cholera, typhoid and dysentery. This national standard should include the control of other contaminants that cause public concern like the presence of some organic and inorganic chemicals that cause certain cancers. The authority of this act is to:

  • Set a national standards regulating the level of contaminants in drinking water
  • Regulate public water systems to monitor and report their levels of identified contaminants.
  • Established uniform guidelines specifying the acceptable treatment technologies for cleansing drinking water of unsafe levels of pollutants.Drinking water regulations are some times called “interim” because research continues on drinking water contaminants. They maybe strengthened and new standards maybe established for other substances based on new studies. But in any case the NSDWA has to set up a timetable under which required to develop PRIMARY Standards for certain contaminants (will be amended later on) and to:

     

     

  • Define an approved treatment techniques to each regulated contaminant.
  • Specify criteria for filtration of surface and ground water supplies.
  • Prohibit the use of lead products in material used to convey drinking water.All water treatment plant operators need to be thoroughly familiar with the national standards that apply to domestic water supply systems.

    These regulations are the goals and guideposts for the water supply industry.

    The purpose is to ensure the uniform delivery of safe and aesthetically pleasing drinking water to the public.

    Setting Standards

    A standard is usually the maximum level of a substance that deemed acceptable in drinking water. The first step in setting of a standard is to study the human and animal health effect of a given chemical. These studies are normally performed using rats or mice. Based on these studies a ” No Observed Adverse Effect Level “-(NOAEL) is established. A safe factor is added to NOAEL and the result is an acceptable daily intake limit of the chemical in question. The limit is adjusted to take into account the average weight and water consumption of the consumer, and the resulting figure is called the Maximum Contaminant Level Goal or MCLG. This level is set at zero for known or probable human carcinogens, and at a level where no adverse health effect would occur with a margin of safety for non carcinogens.

    The MCLG represents a safe level of consumption based solely on its studies of health effects. It is however, a goal rather than an immediately achievable constituent limit. To develop more realistic enforceable limit, we have to revise the MCLG to take into account existing laboratory detection technology, cost, and reasonableness. After adjusting for these factors we set for Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) as close to MCLG as is realistically feasible. The important difference between the two levels is that the MCLG is a non enforceable goal and the MCL is an enforceable standard.

    We have to establish standards (MCL) for chemicals, pesticides, bacteria and viruses, radioactivity, turbidity, and trihalomethanes. Most of these substances occur naturally in our environment and in the food we eat. However the MCL apply whether the contaminant is from naturally occurring sources or from manmade pollution. Therefore the national drinking water standards set by this act reflect the levels we can safely consume in our water, taking into account the amount we are exposed to from these other sources.

    Primary Drinking Water Standards

    Primary Standards or MCLS are set for substances that are thought to pose a threat to health when present in drinking water at certain levels because these substances are of health concern. Primary standards are enforceable by law (in contrast secondary standards relate to cosmetic factors and are not enforceable.). A primary standard is usually expressed as a maximum contaminant level MCL. Some contaminants, such as pathogenic organisms, are very difficult or expensive to measure so using specific treatment techniques (disinfection or filtration for example) which are known to be effective in reducing the health risk of these contaminants. Under this category of primary standards are many microbial, inorganic and organic chemical contaminants.

    Types of Water Systems

    All of the drinking water regulations apply to all public water systems. It makes no difference whether the water system is publicly or privately owned. A public water system is defined as any system which:

    1- Has at least 15 service connections, or
    2- Regularly serves an average of at least 25 individuals daily at least 60 days out of the year.\

    Any water system that provides service for fewer connections or persons than this is not covered by NSDWA. Certain other individuals and residences also are excluded. Such as those whose water is supplied by an irrigation, old mining, and industrial water system. However, regardless of size, all operators must strive to provide consumers with a potable drinking water.

    Drinking water regulations also take into account the type of population served by the system and classify water systems as community and non community systems. Therefore, in order to understand what requirements apply to any specific system, it is first necessary to determine whether the system is considered a community or a non community system. A community water system is defined as one which:

     

     

  • Has at least 15 service connections used by all-year residents, or
  • Regularly serves at least 25 all-year residents.Any public water system that is not a community water system is classified as non community water system. Restaurant, campground and hotels could be considered non community systems for purposes of drinking water regulations.

    [Part I] | [Part II] | [Part III]

    Notes:I end my contribution at this point due to other pressing engagements that I am involved with. But I will be very happy to answer any concern regarding the environment. My contribution based on my experience in Canada. I have no practical knowledge of the environment in Iraq. I left my beloved country 1975, Insha Allah I will visit my country next winter.

    My contribution is for my mother and my brother who are both victims of the environmental conditions in Iraq, and to the inhabitants of the mass graves who were victims of the despotic dictatorship of Sad dam.

    The author is a Biotechnologist and Environmentalist , has been working with the Canadian Government and Environmental Companies for the last 13 years, and can be reached at hsnatar@hotmail.com

 

This piece is taken from the website of the Iraq Foundation.

See on-line at: http://www.iraqfoundation.org/news/2003/haug/28_environment3.html

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