The Islamic State’s Toxic Farewell: Environmental Sabotage and Chronic Disease

The Islamic State’s Toxic Farewell: Environmental Sabotage and Chronic Disease by Tamer El-Ghobashy and and Joby Warrick – Washington Post

… The militants detonated 25 oil wells in a desperate and ultimately unsuccessful effort to defend their terrain against Iraqi security forces in 2016 and wreck a prized national asset. For nine months, a thick, blinding cloud of smoke engulfed Qayyarah and the villages that surround it, turning people’s skin and sheep’s coats black from soot.

The Islamic State footprint on Iraq’s environment may be unprecedented and permanent, with a toxic legacy that includes wide-scale cattle deaths, fields that no longer yield edible crops and chronic breathing complications in children and the elderly, doctors and experts said.

Up to 2 million barrels of oil were lost — either burned or spilled — between June 2016 and March 2017, when firefighters put out the final blaze, according to a U.N. report citing Iraq’s Oil Ministry. Environmental experts worry that much of the oil has seeped into the groundwater and the nearby ­Tigris River — a lifeline for millions of Iraqis stretching more than 1,000 miles to Baghdad and beyond.

The militants also torched a sulfur plant north of Qayyarah, spewing 35,000 tons of the stinging substance into the air, the United Nations said. Reportedly containing one of the largest sulfur stockpiles in the world, the plant was set ablaze in part to help hold off Iraqi security forces, according to human rights and environmental experts…

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