ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Officials in the Kurdistan Region said on Tuesday that illegal oil refineries in the province of Erbil must be closely monitored because of threats they pose to residents' health and the environment.
“These illegal refineries have affected water in most areas and have had direct consequences to the environment as well,” Awaz Hamid Afandi, a lawmaker in the Kurdistan Parliament’s Health and Environment Commission, told Kurdistan 24.
There are nearly 200 such makeshift refineries in Erbil that operate largely unregulated by safety or environmental standards required by law.
“In some areas, refinery pollution has affected the land in a way that it is now no longer suitable for agriculture They have polluted not only the land, but also the air and have greatly affected people’s health and the environment of the Kurdistan Region.”
She called for the formation of a committee charged with keeping track of these facilities to make sure the necessary measures and conditions are fairly enforced.
Erbil Mayor Nabaz Abdulhamid told Kurdistan 24 that the refineries were opened and permitted to operate to fulfill the daily energy needs of the Kurdistan Region, namely gasoline and diesel, since demand cannot be fully met by officially licensed refineries.
“So far, we have shut down 57 illegal refineries that were not abiding by environmental instructions,” Abdulhamid said.
Although the output of the additional poorly-regulated refineries has helped to provide much needed-oil, environmentalists have charged that they are run irresponsibly, and have made similar calls to those of Afandi, for the government to assign a higher priority to health, safety, and a clean environment.
Editing by John J. Catherine
(Additional reporting by Hemin Hussein)