The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is resolute in solving the issue of illegal oil refineries operating within the Iraqi-Kurdistan region. The Ministry of Oil and Gas released a statement that read,

These refineries have caused great damage to the environment and health. Examples from Erbil and Sulaimani were discussed where refineries have caused great damage to water resources and agriculture, and they are a main cause for the spread of some diseases.”

Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani headed the meeting. Both had guaranteed they would “resolve the problem soon,” and have designated the Ministry Interior and the Ministry of Natural Resources to spearhead the issue. The KRG leaders both demanded an immediate solution to the issue, claiming that the illegal refineries damage Kurdistan’s economic stability.

The released statement, summarizing the meeting, went on to claim that, “The protection of the environment and peoples’ lives is the KRG’s priority because the lives of people and the protection of the environment are more important than economic matters.” The Kurdistan Regional Government’s majority revenue is provided via the exportation of the autonomous regions oil reserves. Multiple international petroleum companies operate in Kurdistan and Iraq.

Kurdistan is only the more recent victim to suffer the aftermath and detrimental effects of illegal oil operations. The wells and their crews often dump their waste into Kurdistan’s limited waterways, creating long-term issues for not only the environment but also regional stability. Kurdistan closed down 61 illegal oil refineries in April 2017; they also said that they would be going after an additional 129 refineries. KRG representatives claim that the illegal refineries are supported by “influential people and officials,” and this has made it increasingly difficult to contain the situation according to Sulaymaniah’s energy committee’s head, Ghalib Muhammad.

Featured image: Burning oilfield during Operation Desert Storm, Kuwait | United States Army Corps of Engineers, via Wikimedia Commons

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