(20 Aug 2019) LEAD IN:
Basra’s waterways once nourished its inhabitants.
But officials in Iraq’s second largest city say the water is no longer fit for human use.
Plastic bottles pile up on the shore of the contaminated Shatt al-Arab waterway in Basra.
Once nicknamed the ‘Venice of the East’, the city was formed on the banks of Shatt al-Arab, which in the past provided fresh water and fertile land.
It is waterway formed by the confluence of the Euphrates and the Tigris, rivers which have nourished civilisations since antiquity.
But pollution from industrial waste and domestic sewage has now contaminated the water – with damning consequences.
“The local government (in Basra) confirmed that the Shatt al-Arab water is no longer suitable for human use because it contains industrial pollutants, agricultural drainage and sewage water,” explains Nashat Al-Mansouri from the Basra Provincial Council.
While sewage flows out into Shatt al-Arab, streams and canals in the city have filled with dumped rubbish.
Broken pipes pour more sewage into Al Eisher river which runs through the city centre.
The contaminated green water is loaded with debris which accumulates on the river’s banks.
“The scientific readings reached by the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights showed that Shatt al-Arab water contains six groups of pollutants in addition to very dangerous chemical compounds,” says Mahdi al-Tamimi, the Director of Iraq’s High Commission for Human Rights.
Iraq’s growing population and a lack of treatment plants mean it’s difficult to remove impurities and the problem is getting worse.
As a result, Basra is suffering from water shortages and contaminated water.
Issues with the water supply were one of the factors that triggered protests in the city last year.
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