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Hundreds of KRG’s oil refineries threaten the environment and people's health

Hundreds of KRG’s oil refineries threaten the environment and people's health
A refinery's waste near Erbil city/October 2014. Photograph: peregraf

 

By Sangar Salar

  

Hundreds of illegal refineries threaten the health of people in the Kurdistan region due to the lack of predefined requirements set by the Ministry of Health regarding the way of operating.

 

Consecutive cabinets of the KRG have been discussing the issue for years, with different decisions. In the end, the decision came to close them down, but they are still operational.

 

The refineries called illegal refineries, or small refineries, operate mainly in the Erbil and Sulaimaniyah provinces.

 

Peregraf learnt that their operations pollute the air, and the waste they leave behind impacts people's health negatively in the nearby areas.

 

However, the subject is no secret for the government and its local departments.

 

Aso Hamasaeed, an expert in Public Health and Environment said such refineries should have been built much more distant from any residential area, and in line with the instructions given by relevant authorities to avoid pollution or damage to people's health.

 

Since they have been built closer to towns and villages, a dark cloud of smoke is usually seen over the nearby towns, with foul odour. This has been a nuisance to people for some time now.

 

Hamasaeed said, "Such refineries, due to their waste, some into the air, and some thrown into the water, impact the air, land and agriculture, and at the end, people's health as well."

 

Alongside waste, their products are not in accordance to the standard quality set by authorities.

 

Most recently, The Forest Protection Police decided to sue six refineries over pollution and damage to people's health, according to a statement by the police on 22 November 2018.

 

However, KRG has been fighting these refineries since 2010, each time ending with a series of instructions. Such encounters seem to bear no fruit.

 

The former head of Energy and Industry Committee in parliament, Sherko Jawdat, who has been working for years on the refineries case, told Peregraf, "We've worked on them and most of them were closed down, but because they have influential people behind them, they could exploit the closure of parliament and resumed their work."

 

Jawdat was referring to the previous tenure of parliament, which was closed down for two years due to a dispute between the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party and Change Movement.

 

Jawdat claims such refineries have no official license, but built through influential people. However, KRG trades with them, as he said, the amount is three billion dollars of diesel per year.

 

Jawdat confirms all claims of pollution, low-quality products and even being a cause of cancer in some cases. However, he says no thorough investigation has been conducted to determine their impact.

 

KRG reiterated its position that the illegal refineries "hurt the environment and health of the public" in July 2018, adding they cause dangerous diseases among people.

 

During a meeting, such a statement was made and was attended by the Prime Minister, Nechirvan Barzani, and his deputy Qubad Talabani. It was exclusively to discuss the case of refineries.

 

Several examples of their impact were presented in the meeting, including their damage to agriculture in Sulaimaniyah and Erbil, and to people's health.

 

The waste of illegal refineries threaten the environment and people's health

 

KRG formed a committee consisting of local administrations of Sulaimaniyah, Erbil, Duhok and Garmiyan to deal with the issue. Abdulrazzaq Aziz is the representative of Protection and Reform Commission in the committee, telling Peregraf, "Our committee has given a two-month deadline for the refineries to clear their place, and those which are allowed to work, should abide by the instructions."

 

Even if they fully comply, he said, there are still some environmental concerns.

 

KRG's Ministry of Oil (MNR) classified the refineries into two categories in 2015: 164 are marked for closure for not meeting the conditions set by the ministry, and 28 of them are declared legal but still require compliance with the conditions set by the Ministry of Industry and Environment.

 

Three years after the decision, all the refineries work.

 

Prior to that, the cabinet of the current president of Iraq, then-prime minister, Barham Salih, in 2010 issued a series of decisions regarding the refineries, none of which have been executed.

 

Jawdat says 214 refineries exist in KRG, according to MNR's data, while the legal purchase of crude oil from the government has been halted for them, they persist in buying it in the black market [back-alley deals].

 

The waste of illegal refineries threaten the environment and people's health

 

According to the law of Environment Protection in the Kurdistan Region, any project which damages the environment in any way should be punished, whether with financial charges or detention.

 

An official from KRG's Environment Department, Hallo Askari, said while work is ongoing on such refineries, they will still operate.

 

The government's committee has been working on the refineries, through on-site inspections and imposing certain air-filters on the refineries. However, Aziz said some tensions may arise while closing in on the case, asking the Ministers’ Council to work on the case directly, "It's not possible for them to confront the prime minister or his deputy."

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Hundreds of KRG’s oil refineries threaten the environment and people's health

2018-12-22 18:54:18

 

By Sangar Salar

  

Hundreds of illegal refineries threaten the health of people in the Kurdistan region due to the lack of predefined requirements set by the Ministry of Health regarding the way of operating.

 

Consecutive cabinets of the KRG have been discussing the issue for years, with different decisions. In the end, the decision came to close them down, but they are still operational.

 

The refineries called illegal refineries, or small refineries, operate mainly in the Erbil and Sulaimaniyah provinces.

 

Peregraf learnt that their operations pollute the air, and the waste they leave behind impacts people's health negatively in the nearby areas.

 

However, the subject is no secret for the government and its local departments.

 

Aso Hamasaeed, an expert in Public Health and Environment said such refineries should have been built much more distant from any residential area, and in line with the instructions given by relevant authorities to avoid pollution or damage to people's health.

 

Since they have been built closer to towns and villages, a dark cloud of smoke is usually seen over the nearby towns, with foul odour. This has been a nuisance to people for some time now.

 

Hamasaeed said, "Such refineries, due to their waste, some into the air, and some thrown into the water, impact the air, land and agriculture, and at the end, people's health as well."

 

Alongside waste, their products are not in accordance to the standard quality set by authorities.

 

Most recently, The Forest Protection Police decided to sue six refineries over pollution and damage to people's health, according to a statement by the police on 22 November 2018.

 

However, KRG has been fighting these refineries since 2010, each time ending with a series of instructions. Such encounters seem to bear no fruit.

 

The former head of Energy and Industry Committee in parliament, Sherko Jawdat, who has been working for years on the refineries case, told Peregraf, "We've worked on them and most of them were closed down, but because they have influential people behind them, they could exploit the closure of parliament and resumed their work."

 

Jawdat was referring to the previous tenure of parliament, which was closed down for two years due to a dispute between the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party and Change Movement.

 

Jawdat claims such refineries have no official license, but built through influential people. However, KRG trades with them, as he said, the amount is three billion dollars of diesel per year.

 

Jawdat confirms all claims of pollution, low-quality products and even being a cause of cancer in some cases. However, he says no thorough investigation has been conducted to determine their impact.

 

KRG reiterated its position that the illegal refineries "hurt the environment and health of the public" in July 2018, adding they cause dangerous diseases among people.

 

During a meeting, such a statement was made and was attended by the Prime Minister, Nechirvan Barzani, and his deputy Qubad Talabani. It was exclusively to discuss the case of refineries.

 

Several examples of their impact were presented in the meeting, including their damage to agriculture in Sulaimaniyah and Erbil, and to people's health.

 

The waste of illegal refineries threaten the environment and people's health

 

KRG formed a committee consisting of local administrations of Sulaimaniyah, Erbil, Duhok and Garmiyan to deal with the issue. Abdulrazzaq Aziz is the representative of Protection and Reform Commission in the committee, telling Peregraf, "Our committee has given a two-month deadline for the refineries to clear their place, and those which are allowed to work, should abide by the instructions."

 

Even if they fully comply, he said, there are still some environmental concerns.

 

KRG's Ministry of Oil (MNR) classified the refineries into two categories in 2015: 164 are marked for closure for not meeting the conditions set by the ministry, and 28 of them are declared legal but still require compliance with the conditions set by the Ministry of Industry and Environment.

 

Three years after the decision, all the refineries work.

 

Prior to that, the cabinet of the current president of Iraq, then-prime minister, Barham Salih, in 2010 issued a series of decisions regarding the refineries, none of which have been executed.

 

Jawdat says 214 refineries exist in KRG, according to MNR's data, while the legal purchase of crude oil from the government has been halted for them, they persist in buying it in the black market [back-alley deals].

 

The waste of illegal refineries threaten the environment and people's health

 

According to the law of Environment Protection in the Kurdistan Region, any project which damages the environment in any way should be punished, whether with financial charges or detention.

 

An official from KRG's Environment Department, Hallo Askari, said while work is ongoing on such refineries, they will still operate.

 

The government's committee has been working on the refineries, through on-site inspections and imposing certain air-filters on the refineries. However, Aziz said some tensions may arise while closing in on the case, asking the Ministers’ Council to work on the case directly, "It's not possible for them to confront the prime minister or his deputy."