ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraq’s Ministry of Health and Environment (MHE) on Friday formed a committee to investigate thousands of dead fish in the rivers of Babil Province, with the agriculture ministry investigating possible poisoning by those running fisheries or food import businesses seeking market domination.
Local health authorities are set to conduct laboratory tests for possible poisoning and some officials have said they believe the cause of the fish's deaths was water, food, or other environmental contamination, leading to poisoning and intestinal inflammation.
In early October, residents of rural areas north of Baghdad reported witnessing similar mass deaths of fish on the Tigris River. On Thursday, the same occurrence was also reported in Babil province, immediately south of the capital, but on the Euphrates River.
Authorities have said that the incidences north of Baghdad, specifically the towns of al-Tarmiyah and al-Rashidiya, were due to a fungal infection.
The MHE "has set up a team working to stop the deaths of the fish and put forward methods to deal with it as soon as possible," read a statement by Kareem 'Askar, director general of the MHE's Department in the Middle Euphrates Region, a geographical area south of Baghdad in the Euphrates River basin.
'Askar stressed Iraq's need to strengthen regulations, increase oversight, and take measures to apply environmental laws effectively to curb violations detrimental to the nation's environment.
The Ministry of Agriculture has not ruled out that the deaths were intentional, though the exact strategy behind any proposed scheme was unclear.
"Investigations by the competent teams on the deaths of fish in Babil will reveal the real reason" behind the incidents, read a statement.
The ministry has "not eliminated [the possibility] that the cause is a conflict between [fish] farmers and importers attempting to control the fish market," the ministry added.
"The elimination of the fish wealth in Iraq and the repeated cases of poisoning in rivers are not accidents, but crimes and should not pass unnoticed," former water resources minister Hassan al-Janabi wrote on his Facebook account on Wednesday.
Editing by John J. Catherine