Sand - the Southern Iraqi Gift for Kurdistan
In 2009 only 10 thousand asthma cases were registered. This number had doubled in one year.
The rate of asthma increases proportionately to the rate of sand falling on Region as threats from sandstorms gathers pace
The amount of sand-polluted air Kurdish people breathe in this year is eight times more than that of two years ago. This unwanted gift from the south of Iraq has increased the number of asthma patients by 6 times in the past two years.
Kazhal Siddiq, a young lady of 26, did not even know what asthma was just two years ago.
Siddiq, who was renowned as an active and energetic person among her friends, is now unable to do all kinds of activities she enjoyed in the past. When she does some quick movements, her breath stops and she cannot speak easily.
Her physician says her breathing system has caught a long-term sensitivity due to the dirty and polluted sandy air she has breathed over the past couple of years.
Siddiq, who was in love of female perfumes and was recognized by the special perfumes she was wearing, is now not only unable to wear her perfumes, but cannot stand next to anyone wearing perfume without using her inhaler.
The worse thing is when a sandstorm enters Erbil, her hometown, as she is forced to close the doors and confide to her room. However, the tiny molecules of sand still make their way to her room and narrow her prison further.
"I can no longer pursue my wishes and goals and enjoy my life like a normal human being," Siddiq told the Globe hopelessly. "And this has been caused by sandstorm."
It is not only Siddiq who is suffering from this disease. Statistics from the Kurdistan Region's Ministry of Health show that only during the last year, 62 thousand people caught asthma across the region, while in 2009 only 10 thousand asthma cases were registered. This number had doubled in one year. This shows that the disease is expanding at a threatening rate.
Asthma is not the only disease caused by sandstorm. Dr. Khalis Qadir, official spokesperson of the KRG Ministry of Health, warns that sandstorms may cause skin diseases, sour eyes and nasal sensitivity as well.
In addition to air, the sandstorms pollute part of the water supplies of the region, which also helps in the spread of the diseases.
Mustafa Muradi, an environmental expert, argues that the factor behind the sandstorm coming to Kurdistan for the past ten years is drought.
Muradi says that this is the result of the shortage of rain in the past 8 years, which has resulted in a reduction of green areas and grasses in the country and thus the widening of the desert areas. This has made the surface of the ground susceptible to be becoming swept with the wind.
"Since Kurdistan is a mountainous region with more humidity, it attracts the sands from the deserts of southern Iraq," Muradi told the Globe.
Although the source of the sandstorms in Kurdistan has not been scientifically studied and determined, environmental specialists argue that it comes from the deserts of southern Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the Sahara.
Although until now the deserts from outside the region have sent sandstorms to Kurdistan, Abdulla Mohammed, Erbil Environment Directorate, argues that in the future they will have domestic sources of sand.
"The current sandstorms from the deserts outside kill our green areas and convert our farms to deserts," said Mohammed. "This makes the sand in the air thicker and result in deeper breathing problems and shorter sight."
Mohammed has measured the sand fallen in the past three years and results are shocking. In 2009 it was 19 mg/m2, this number increased by 250% in 2010, while it has increased 8.5 times by 2011.
These figures for Muradi are proof that if the issues are not addressed wisely then, "we are nearing from becoming a desert."
Muradi claims that KRG cannot find a radical solution for the issue and but a part of the remedy is increasing the number of dams, irrigating farms and increasing green areas, by which it can purify the air slightly, but this is more like a pain-killer for a serious headache and thus only a temporary relief.
Muradi argues that since the challenge is faced by a number of countries, the solution needs multilateral efforts. However, Mohammed told the Globe that the international efforts have not succeeded.
"Although the Iranian and Iraqi environment authorities met last year to seek a solution for the issue, but as such an initiative needs a lot of capital and there is no guarantee that they will have any impact, the talks did not continue," said Mohammed.
Iranian authorities are also concerned about the issue as the sandstorms continue from Kurdistan Region to Iran.
Statistics show that sandstorms are increasing at a fast pace, and diseases are increasing proportionately. However, the efforts for resolving the issue have slowed down and till now there is not a serious plan.
If this situation continues, not only Siddiq loses the hope of enjoying a pure breath, but thousands more people like Siddiq might face the same challenges she is currently forced to endure.
07 June 2012
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