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The Pollution of Darbandikhan Lake

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Darbanidkhan Lake is an artificial resevoir in North Eastern Iraq. It was created by damming the course of the Sirwan and Tanjarro Rivers and is the main source of water for the town of Darbandikhan. It is also heavily polluted.

In 2008, the Ministry of Health tested the waters of both the lake and households in the area and declared it unsuitable for drinking.

One of the main sources of the pollution of the lake is the Tanjarro River, which runs through the city of Sulaymaniyah, in which is dumped an enormous amount of chemical waste from the many factories, oil refineries, hospitals and industrial laboratories in the area.

Dam complexes built by the Iranian regime during the Iraq-Iran war and a low water level bought about by a drought concentrated the toxic chemicals in the water to an unprecedented level. This affects the fauna of the lake, poisoning fish and rendering them unsuitable for consumption.

The concentration of heavy minerals such as mercury, lead, cerium, manganese, nickel and cobalt in the waters are way above international standards, according to studies performed by Sulaymaniyah University, the Environment Directorate and the Bureau of Science and Environment of Iraq.

The consumption of this polluted water can have devastating effects on health, leading to kidney problems, skin diseases and cancer.

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A view of Darbandikhan lake.

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Pshtiwan Karim (left) and Bahadin Salih (right) on their boat fishing in the morning.

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Dead fish on the beach where the heavily polluted Tanjarro river empties into Darbandikhan lake.

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Zhinws Sherko, 7, from Darbandikhan is a cancer patient. She is putting on a wig to hide hair loss because of chemotherapy. She has leukemia, a type of cancer often caused by pollution.

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A broken military bridge that exploded during the Iraq-Iran war of 1980-1988 near Wllwar village. Abandoned military equipment, land mines and weaponry is another cause of pollution in the lake.

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Animals from around the Sirwan River drink.

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A man spraying water from the lake on vegetables in the market.

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Children form Darbandikhan area swim in the Sirwan River at dusk, despite knowing that the water is heavily polluted.

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Kawa Hama, 44, farmer. He uses Darbandikhan Lake water to irrigate his land. Despite being aware of the problem, he keeps using the polluted water, as he has no other option.

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Mohammed, 47, fishing on his boat in the morning. Mohammed has been fishing on Darbandikhan lake for 20 years.

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Abbas Aziz, 69 from Darbandixan, and his son are fishermen. Abbas has been fishing for 35 years.

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Abbas says that the river is more polluted and the fish stocks lower than in the past and he is not making enough to survive.

The Tanjarro River is heavily polluted due to the high number of factories in the area pouring toxic waste into its waters, which are also used by a lot of farmers in the area for irrigation. It is believed that the Tanjarro River is the main cause of the pollution of Darbandikhan Lake.

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Kaiwan Mariwan getting treatment for dysentery. His father takes care of him. It is believed that cases of dysentery in the area are linked directly to pollution.

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 Hama Sur / Metrography

Shaxawan Jalal, 35, is an agriculture engineer. He comes is conducting research about the consequences of pollution in the lake for the Darbandikhan agriculture directorate.

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