Nabil Musa, waterkeeper

Without water, life on earth wouldn’t exist. Bodies of water have not only made life possible, but throughout history they have shaped human culture. Sadly, the future of Iraq’s water is in a precarious position. Our community relies on water, and the future of a healthy water system in Iraq relies on Nabil Musa, Iraq’s first and only Waterkeeper.

On July 11, 2011, Mr. Nabil, who works as a Waterkeeper with the NGO (Non Governmental Organization) Nature Iraq visited Development Club, and gave an insightful presentation about water in Iraq. There are significant challenges facing water in the region including: poor planning, over pollution, unsafe drinking conditions, open sewage and little awareness of the severity of the problem. The work that Mr. Nabil is doing inspired me to get involved and spread his message with others.

A still from a short documentary produced by Nabil about the poor water conditions in Sulaimani

The global environmental Waterkeepers movement was championed by Robert Kennedy in the 1960’s, with the Hudson River as the first protected body of water. By raising awareness about pollution of the river and bringing major polluters to court, the past few decades have helped make the Hudson River a model ecosystem. The Waterkeepers protect more than 160,000 Km of rivers, streams, riversides, and coastlines in the world.

They are a grassroots organization, meaning that they use local resources to solve local problems. One of the short films that Mr. Nabil showed our group was a montage of problems that face Sulaimani’s Qeleyasan River. There were disturbing images of burnt tires on the banks of the stream, open sewage, and people washing their cars directly in the river. Many people are living without access to safe drinking water in Iraq and many water sources are becoming depleted in Iraq because of pollution, but the water keepers are doing their bests to reduce these problems firstly by raising awareness.

Development Club students watching a presentation on Iraq's water systems

One of the recent projects Mr. Nabil helped organize a trip to help clean the Qeleyasan River with some volunteers from AUI-S. In addition, the Waterkeepers have done many other projects  in Iraq like starting to organize trips to clean the Tanjero River, Zey Gawra and Zey Bechwk and Dukan River to name just a few. Remedying such problems is not easy by individuals or by small groups, so let’s work together, and let’s take care of the water sources to help protect our community, our water and our planet.

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Qeleyasan river clean-up

Sections of the Qeleyasa river are badly polluted

A few weeks ago, I accompanied a group of approximately 20 volunteer students and teachers from the American University of Iraq- Sulaimani who went to Sulaimani’s Sarchinar district on a field trip. We went to clean up the Qeleyasa river which is considerably polluted and has major litter problems. The NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) Nature Iraq helped organize the trip and taught the participants about the importance of protecting Iraq’s waterways.

Local farmers rely on the river to water their crops

 For me, it was an interesting and fun experience. Part of my enjoyment stemmed from the fact that we had such variety in our group. There were Americans, Kurdish and Arab Iraqis from diverse religious backgrounds who all worked together to clean up the river. Personally, participating in this project helped strengthen my resolve that people need to put more effort into saving our environment. We should make people aware of the size of this problem and strive to find solutions for it.

Have you been involved in this project? Please feel free to rate this project using the stars below and leave specific comments so that projects like this one can become more meaningful over time.