Once the farms around the city of Sulaymaniyah provided all of the fruit and vegetables locals needed. Now climate change, pollution and illegal dumping in local waterways are forcing farmers out.
“We can no longer grow vegetables here, that time has come to an end,” lamented farmer Mohammed Aziz. “The water is so dirty that we don’t even dare get near it,” the 55-year-old said, pointing toward the Tanjero River, once a chief source of water for farming here.
Aziz used to grow vegetables and other crops but since major amounts of sewage began being discharged into this small river, he and his fellow farmers can no longer benefit from what they describe as once fertile land. The waters of the Tanjero River, which runs southwest of the city of Sulaymaniyah and flow into the Darbandikhan Lake, are now unsuitable for agricultural use.
“In the past, the water was not clean either,” Aziz admits. “But it was good enough and we used it. At that time, not all sewage went into the river. But now all of the sewage goes into the river and the river has become so polluted that farmers are being forced to leave their land and abandon agriculture.”
This has been confirmed by Nature Iraq, an environmental action group with links to United Nations eco-projects, that has initiated a community awareness project, called the Iraq Upper Tigris Waterkeeper Project. Nature Iraq has tested the waters of Tanjero and Darbandikhan Lake (pictured).