On 14 March of every year, millions of people around the world raise their voices to highlight those struggling to protect the earth’s rivers for International Day of Action for Rivers, and on 22 March, they turn their attention to all the world’s water for World Water Day. This year, local social forums joined with millions of people across the planet by organizing several activities on those special days to celebrate Iraq’s water.
The Euphrates River campaign of the Peace Forum in Ramadi
This campaign is an environmental initiative aimed at raising awareness about the value of accepting collective responsibility for the care of the Euphrates River which runs through the city. The campaign hopes to increase community involvement in environmental matters, specifically the urgent need to protect the river from pollutants.
In addition to the Peace Forum’s activists and the Euphrates Protectors team in Ramadi, the campaign is supported by the deputy of Ramadi, as well as all the departments concerned with the environment and water, including Al-Anbar University, clerics, and the security forces in the province.
The campaign extends beyond the boundaries of Ramadi and stands in full solidarity with the environment and water masar (path) of the Peace Forum in Hit. Both stand in support of the rivers in the area, and hope for the reconstruction of “al-Kaya”, a type of boat used to transport asphalt and crops between the cities of the Euphrates basin.
Misan Social Forum celebrates World Water Day with a visit to Sabeans
In southern Iraq, youth activists of the Misan Social Forum celebrated World Water Day differently this year. They visited the Sabean community to congratulate them on their Barwaniyah day, which is a holy day in their religion which involves the use of water. Because this day fell close to World Water Day, the young activists from the Misan Social Forum were able to use this coincidence to to spread awareness about the need to preserve water and protect the environment.
Misan activists also organized a clean-up campaign on the banks of the Tigris River for another activity on World Water Day. Dozens of volunteers were involved in the campaign, all joined in the effort of delivering a simple message: Don’t contaminate water! Work together to preserve and protect nature and the environment!
A week of Tigris Protectors activities in Baghdad
In Baghdad, the activities of the Tigris Protectors Organization lasted a full week, from 15-22 March. Together the environmental activists worked in cooperation with the Arts of Peace team to raise awareness about the dangers threatening the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, especially after the recent statements by Turkey asserting its plan to activate the Ilisu dam beginning in June of 2019. The organization also organized a voluntary cleaning campaign on both sides of the Tigris River, which highlighted the damage done to the Tigris River because of pollution in Baghdad.
The International Day of Action for Rivers and World Water Day are an opportunity for millions around the world both to celebrate the achievements of the worldwide movements to protect water and rivers, and to call attention to continued threats to the earth’s water supply. These issues demand coordinated international action if we are to deal seriously with water security issues and associated food security issues. This is an important occasion to remind the global public of the dangers of dams built on rivers, their damage to biodiversity, and of the disasters caused by pollutants that destroy both rivers and seas around the world.
Global civil society stands with one voice to denounce the behavior of using water as a weapon by some countries against their regional neighbors. Global corporations are also at fault, as they seek massive profits by controlling water resources for personal benefit. These greedy corporate ambitions come at the great expense of human health interests in Iraq and around the world.
World Water Day calls on us to take to the streets and protest, to call on our decision-makers to improve water policies. It is a day to educate each other about the threats to rivers across the globe, and to learn about better practices to solve water and energy problems. It is a day to call for the removal of dams, replacing them with more sustainable and environmentally-friendly water management systems. Above all, World Water Day calls on us to stand together: Through solidarity and collective action we can show that these water issues are both local and global in scope.