Amina and her team are planting seedlings on the banks of the Tigris River, in an effort to create the first artificial forest, the aim of which is to green the Zab sub-district and then transfer the experience to other areas of Kirkuk.
The campaign to green the Zab (70 km southwest of Kirkuk) was launched at the initiative of the (For Us) group and has been ongoing for several weeks.
“In our area there are the Tigris and Zab rivers, which are major drivers of greening this town, and we have volunteers who can work to improve the environment and increase the greenness rate,” Amina Dhia Hassan told KirkukNow.
The volunteer group has more than 15 volunteers in Al-Zab.
According to Kirkuk Now's follow-ups, the group began implementing several environmental activities and events in cooperation with the Ain Al-Zab volunteer team, most notably an afforestation campaign on the banks of the Tigris River, where more than 140 seedlings of the type (Acacia, Albizia and Eucalyptus) have been planted so far as part of an experiment to create the “first artificial forest” in the region.
“If the project succeeds in Al-Zab, we will expand it to include all areas of the governorate,” Hassan said.
The percentage of greenery in Kirkuk Governorate does not exceed 2% according to statistics by Kirkuk civil departments published earlier by the KirkukNow, while international standards indicate that this percentage should not be less than 15%.
Hassan’s volunteer group was established in July 2023 and has about 55 volunteers throughout the northern, 0il-rich province.
Climate changes and the environment of the region are major factors that prompted me to establish a volunteer group
“Climate changes and the environment of the region are major factors that prompted me to establish a volunteer group,” says Hassan, 23-years-old a civil activist in Al-Zab. “I did not know that there was a large number of young people who were interested in working in this field before we put forward the idea of establishing our group, and everyone now is ready to work voluntarily."
In addition to afforestation, the volunteer groups of Zab carry out many other environmental activities related to the risks of climate change and its impact on the region.
“If you want to hear the sound of birds, do not buy a cage, but rather plant a tree.” These words were written on the walls of several schools in Al-Zab and the municipality of the sub-district, along with pictures of other activities related to environmental and health awareness, including holding seminars on the dangers facing the environment, the use of plastic, and how to maintain clean water.
Dr. Ammar Hussein (43 years old), a civil activist, school principal in Al-Zab, and founder of the (Ain (Eye of) Al-Zab) volunteer group, says that the most important step in these campaigns and initiatives for the environment is the participation of citizens and the support of young people for them, especially taking care of the trees and watering them after planting them.
The Ain Al-Zab group is also participating in establishing the “first artificial forest” with the aim of increasing the percentage of greenery around the Tigris River, which passes through Zab sub-district, in preparation for implementing larger similar projects, and to contribute to confronting the effects of climate change and reducing the effects of heat.
According to United Nations statistics and warnings, Iraq is ranked fifth among the countries most affected by the repercussions of climate change, which include the risks of water scarcity, drought, high temperatures, pollution, and other natural disasters.
“This initiative is beneficial to the region, but the types and sizes of trees are not compatible with the region’s environment,” Iyad Hussein, director of the Zab municipality, explained to (KirkukNow).
The types and sizes of trees are not compatible with the region’s environment
He pointed out that it is better for their height to exceed one meter. “Palm trees and pine trees can withstand high temperature and adaptation to the climate of the region.
Temperatures in Zab and the southwestern areas of Kirkuk province reach 50 degrees Celsius during the summer, with occasional dust and sand storms.
Hussein says that the municipality is planning to develop Zab Corniche to turn it into a tourist site, as there are currently between 300 and 400 trees there, and there is another proposal to include the green belt in several areas in Zab sub-district.
The efforts of the Kirkuk administration over more than a decade to increase the percentage of greenery in the governorate have failed, as emphasis was placed in the years 2011 and 2014 on increasing the percentage of greenery without results on the ground.
“Women’s participation in environmental campaigns is a good thing, because they feel well the effects of climate change on the region,” says Sarah Ali Muhammad (27 years old). She believes that women face many challenges due to water scarcity, which hinders agriculture.
Women face many challenges due to water scarcity
Sarah, a graduate of the Technical Institute, believes that it is necessary for women to participate in campaigns to increase greenery, which will create greater awareness within society regarding the environmental issue.
The livelihood of the residents of Al-Zab sub-district of Hawija district depends mainly on agriculture and livestock grazing. It is considered one of the fertile areas and women play a major role in the field of agriculture and animal husbandry.
According to statistics from the Agriculture Division of Al-Zab Sub-district, the plan for growing wheat for this year was more than 330,000 dunums (33,000 hectares), in addition to thousands of dunums allocated for growing corn and other crops.
Dr. Ammar Hussein fears that a portion of farmers in Al-Zab are abandoning work in their field due to the repercussions of climate change, most notably the lack of water in addition to the absence of government support. He believes that the role that women play in afforestation and environmental advocacy campaigns is influential, given that the impact of climate change is visible in their daily life.
During the past years, several organizations sought to plant trees and increase the percentage of greenery in Kirkuk, but these projects did not last due to the lack of care for the trees, at a time when the province faces escalating health risks due to the extraction of oil from hundreds of oil wells.
The director of Al-Zab Municipality says that the plan to plant trees on the sidewalks and medians is continuing. “We face great challenges that hinder the success of these projects, and we need to educate citizens about taking care of trees and greenery and preserving them, and this is what volunteer groups can play a role in.”
There are about 200 public parks in the city of Kirkuk, a few of which are more than several dunams in area, while the rest are small in area. In addition to 81 medians - one to five kilometers long - trees were planted.
The (For Us) Volunteer Group believes that women can play a leadership role in afforestation campaigns and provide support to address many problems. “Women’s love of change makes them creative in finding solutions, which may start from their homes and raising awareness for their children in order to create a clean and healthy environment,” Hasan believes.