ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) closed down 30 illegal oil refineries in the province of Duhok on Thursday, after an order by Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani.
The closings came after a governmental committee tasked with ending unauthorized refining and environmental activists raised the issue with Barzani, pointing out that the makeshift operations were not legally registered and were having detrimental effects on area water quality and other aspects of the local environment.
“The decision was made earlier in the year. This afternoon, a joint KRG security force came to the Kwashe industrial zone in Duhok province to shut down the refineries operating illegally and those not abiding by environmental regulations,” committee head Muhajid Said-Saleh Kurdistan 24.
He added, “There are 37 oil refineries in the Kwashe area in Duhok and 30 of them were closed down today. Only seven remain, as they were operating according to the law.”
Saleh explained that there are a total of 192 oil refineries in the Kurdistan Region. According to a recent KRG decision, only 28 will remain, seven of them the ones left running in Kwashe. According to the Law of Environmental Protection and Improvement and the Oil and Gas Law, the remaining 28 refineries risk closure as well if they do not follow strict environmental regulations now in place.
In July, Duhok officials warned that electric generators, industrial facilities, and the increasing number of vehicles also posed a serious threat to both the environment and residents' health.
"In comparison to the previous four years, Duhok's environment this year has seen increasing amounts of pollution," Mohammed Taher, the director of Duhok's Environment Protection Department, told Kurdistan 24. "The main reason is the industrial refineries and generators, with the refineries not operating according to standard regulations."
Locals in some villages have also complained to Kurdistan 24 that the refineries' waste products, such as toxic gases and various liquid chemicals pollute their sources of drinking water and air.
The Kwashe industrial zone is located just outside the city of Duhok. As a result of its proximity to the city's population centers, critics of the refineries have repeatedly warned that they were polluting surrounding reservoirs, poisoning animals that graze on nearby pastures, and directly affecting the water in surrounding areas.
Editing by John J. Catherine