Wadi’s newest project in cooperation with NWE organisation and ADWI (supported by BMZ) engages youth in environmental activism and protection. This newest chapter of the ‘Green City Halabja’ campaign expands on the grassroots movement that since 2018 has worked to make strong and long lasting environmental change in the social fabric in Halabja and other parts of Iraqi Kurdistan.
In 2018 Halabja announced its intention to be the first city in Iraqi Kurdistan that is plastic bag free. This was an important first step in changing people’s attitudes to plastic, waste, recycling, and eventually ‘greening’ the city by planting hundreds of trees and establishing community groups to care for those new green spaces. Environmental alarm is finally happening in the Middle East, and Iraq as a major oil producer was not a place where ‘green’ policies and ideas were popular.
But, the undeniable drastic effects that climate change is having on the area are too much to be ignored. In 2021 record setting draught has sounded the alarm, the country is running out of water. Even in a place where oil is cheap, the reality is that it is extremely polluting and eventually those resources will run out. People are realising the negative effect that plastic waste, non-recycled trash, trash burning, are having on their lives. Young people especially are keenly aware through the power of social media and the worldwide ‘Friday’s for Future’ protests that have been ongoing in 2019 and early 2020 (until Covid -19 became a global pandemic).
Wadi’s new project ‘Keep Kurdistan Green’ engages directly with school students and teachers in Halabja, Garmyan, Ranya and Erbil through a combination of seminars and small projects that are student led. The different student groups will also be encouraged to network with one another, share ideas and work together. The student groups will also put on small theater plays for their schools, organise trash clean up, and encourage entire communities to participate in more eco-friendly practices. Together we develop leaflets and other educational material. This project continues Wadi’s vision of supporting people to work together creatively to solve their own problems, come together as citizens and take ownership of communal spaces, by providing both short term boosts and long term technical support on how to reach those goals.
Some background on the ‘Green City Halabja’ and ‘Keep Kurdistan Green’ Campaigns:
The focus of the “Green City Halabja” campaign which started in the summer of 2018 was the improvement of the green spaces and public parks, planting of trees and flowers, the recycling of trash and the end of plastic bag use. Activists in Halabja worked to make their city the first “plastic bag free” city in Iraq, single use plastic bags were replaced completely by reusable tote bags made of cotton. Cotton bags were sewed and labelled with the logo of the campaign, then activists visited the marketplace and local shops of Halabja to distribute the bags among the people there. The goal was to encourage the residents of the city to use reusable bags instead of single use plastic ones for their daily purchasing.
The action joined an initiative which started in February 2019 to end plastic use in Halabja. What made it special, however, was the connection between two different topics: protection of the environment and an improved possibility of income for low-income women from Halabja or women refugees; as the main protagonists of this project were not only local activist, but also women refugees and IDPs – seeking protection in Halabja. This project is having a positive effect on the community; people in Halabja are seeing the benefits that come from working to protect the environment by planting trees and having green spaces. Replacing plastic bags with cotton ones has also been very positive for the city and for the women refugees who are starting to generate a steady income for themselves. Halabja would like to be a role model for other cities in the field of environment protection.
Another new local approach is building a recycling facility, in cooperation with NGO Shred Up. Plastic bottle collection points have been set up in schools and other local areas, those bottles are collected regularly and then taken to this facility where they are shredded. The shredded plastic is then used to create new products, currently outdoor furniture (chair and table set) and tables and benches for schools.
The products all have the logo of the campaign and signage explaining that they are made from recycled plastic bottles. Restaurants and coffee shops are also cooperating with this new project and will soon be buying the furniture to support local recycling. The energy surrounding this project is incredible, and it has already been featured multiple times on local media.
This project is supported by the German Ministry of Cooperation