Four years of war has not improved Iraq’s environment

After four years of U.S.-led war and the two Saddam-ized decades preceding it, Iraq’s water, land, and air are in rough shape. “The Tigris and Euphrates rivers are essentially open sewers,” says Azzam Alwash of Nature Iraq, who also says clean-up is needed on over 500 industrial plants that would qualify for Superfund status in the U.S. Bombing debris litters the country, diesel and gas fumes fill the air, oil-burning factories spew black smoke, and oil has reportedly been pumped into leaky reservoirs and set on fire. Despite two bright notes in this sad song — the restoration of marshlands drained and burned by Hussein during his tenure and the recent improvement of sewage treatment plants — the country’s 26 million people are not, as they say, in a good place. And though their polluted surroundings are a threat to their health, says Alwash, “that is not an important issue when you can step outside your door and get a bullet in the head.” Fair enough.