By Saleem al-Wazzan.
Fighting for Clean Air: Locals Living Near Basra Oil Wells Move Because of Pollution
The oil wells in southern Iraq have made the areas relatively prosperous. But they also seem to be making the locals sick. Many say they’re moving out because they don’t want to breathe the poisoned air here anymore.
He’s not yet 40 years old but Lafta Abu Karrar has some very serious medical problems – in particular his respiratory tract is inflamed and his breathing is laboured. He also has what are best described as chemical hypersensitivities.
“The doctors have already told us that we need to change where we live,” Karrar’s younger brother told NIQASH during a visit to the medical clinic where Karrar was being treated. “Also, that we need to avoid places that are polluted – otherwise his life is going to be seriously endangered.”
However this is not particularly easy. Karrar was born in Shuaiba in the southern province of Basra and still lives there; he grew up here ad also worked here. His home is very near oil production and extraction facilities in Shuaiba and many locals believe it is the pollutants caused by these operations that are affecting the health of people like Karrar.
Habib al-Kaabi says he has spent a lot of money trying to cure his son, Ahmad’s breathing problems. The seven-year-old coughs all night and suffers from shortness of breath. “But the medicine we are giving him is not helping,” al-Kaabi says. “We are suffocating because of the fumes and the smoke coming out of the oil wells and we really don’t have any way of avoiding them.”
A doctor working at one the local medical clinics in Shuaiba agrees, suggesting that he knows of about 90 people who have been directly affected by pollution from oil fields.