The Kurdish Globe
Climate statistics show that the total temperatures have increased, grass beds are reduced, and ground and underground water levels have fallen at a dangerous pace.
Additionally, sandstorms show up more frequently and densely than ever and pose a real threat on the lives of the people and the environment.
Kurdistan Region's weather statistics show that the average temperature of Erbil in July 1992 was 39°C, while in 2011 it had reached 42°C. Although, over the 20 years, the highest degree in July had reached 45°C, the highest annual average was still around 42°C. This indicates that the temperature of Erbil has increased by 3°C in 20 years.
Moreover, the rainfall levels have also witnessed a significant decline. Before 1982, the annual rain levels were between 450mm to 650mm, but during the past 30 years the level of rainfall has never reached the minimum level of the years prior to 1982 with average levels between 150 mm and 425 mm per year.
This has had detrimental effect on the rivers, water levels, some of which have completely dried up.
Abdulla Mohammed, Erbil's Environment Director, says that Khabat River, a branch of the Greater Zab River, had 223 cubic meter of water per second in 2002 but this has lowered to 90 cubic meters in 2011.
Mohammed says that this draught has led to a significant loss of green beds in Kurdistan, Iraq and the whole region, and has led to rapidly increasing sandstorm levels.
According to 2009 statistics, 19 grams of sand had fallen per square meter, but in 2012 this rate has increased to 51 grams. This means that within the circle of the 100 meter street in Erbil, which is the center of the city and has an area of 113.04 square kilometer, a total of 5,871 kilos of sand has fallen on the people, greenery and fruit harvests of Erbil.
The catastrophe snowballed in 2011 when 117 grams of sand fell per each square meter, i.e. 20,008 kg within the 100m street.
This shows that in 2011 the rate has increased 9 times that of 2009.
Sandstorm levels are expected to rise further in the coming years. The sandstorm has brought other problems in itself. Kurdistan Regional Government's Health Ministry Statistics show that asthma cases recorded in 2011 was 6 times higher than that of 2009.
Moreover, as Mohammed highlights, a kind of grass now grows in the farms of Makhmur District as a result of the sandstorms, which is very harmful for agriculture and has seriously affected the farming and served as a source of worry for farmers in this area.
It is reported that this kind of grass normally grows in the deserts, and Kurdistan's soil is much a better place for it to grow due to its fertility.
Although, various harmful materials come to Kurdistan and fall on its ground and water through the sandstorms, the underground water is rapidly decreasing and being polluted. Statistics show that the level of underground water in one of the aquifers in Erbil, called the Banaman Aquifer, has fallen 27 meters during the past 12 years, and it is about to dry up. In addition, the Shawesh Well IV has fallen 65 meters below its 2000 level. This is the case with almost all the wells in Erbil and the loss ranges between 2 to 65 meters in the past 12 years.
Besides, the pollution of the water is more significant and the percentage of chemicals in the water is higher than healthy levels.
According to statistics of the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources, in 2008 alone 2,500 illegal water wells were dug in Erbil, and this number is now above 4,000. Moreover, the total deep water wells were 6,730 wells in 2010 but it reached 8,408 in 2011.
The extensive use of underground water, according to Mohammed, could lead to the loss of the strategic underground water reservoir, and we might witness in the near future diseases caused by polluted water.
Mohammed believes that underground water is hardly recovered by rainfall, and it is never used as extensively in other countries.
Some environmental experts warn that if these issues are not addressed urgently, the signs of natural disasters could be showing themselves rapidly.