Solid waste dumpsite in Sulaymaniyah, Kurdistan Region of Iraq

Neglect and toxic waste made the uncontrolled dumpsite in Sulaymaniyah a ticking bomb. Yet, authorities have proved to be unwilling or unable to defuse it, casting a bleak shadow on the affected population.


For decades the municipal and industrial solid waste of Sulaymaniyah have been dumped in a disposal site of few hectares looking out onto the banks of the Tanjaro River in the southern part of the city. Poor management and lack of waste treatment have resulted in the severe contamination of soil, water, and air of the surrounding area. Besides urban waste, oil refineries and cement plants nearby unload production residues into the city dump. Around 75% of medical waste from local hospitals is also disposed in the same place. Soil and water samples taken in proximity of the landfill showed concentrations of Iron (Fe), Manganese (Mn), Cadmium (Cd), Nickel (Ni), Cobalt (Co) and Chromium (Cr) above permissible levels. 

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Basic Data
NameSolid waste dumpsite in Sulaymaniyah, Kurdistan Region of Iraq
ProvinceSulaymaniyah Governorate
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Waste Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Specific CommoditiesMedical waste
Industrial waste
Domestic municipal waste
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsIt is an uncontrolled and not fenced solid waste landfill, located 1 kilometre south-east of the city of Sulaymaniyah. Waste is dumped into piles without treatment and is only partially covered with earth. Lines of rubbish trucks unload on the top of the hillside between 1,200-1,400 tons of garbage daily. For the most part (estimated 60%) it is organic, though mixed with materials of all kinds.

The Municipality of Sulaymaniyah and four private companies are in charge of collecting and disposing waste, but no consistent procedures of sorting and disposal are observed. Once unloaded, the piles of garbage are pushed down the steep hillside overlooking a cultivated valley and the Tanjaro River.

The site is acrid-smelling and full of dangerous sharp metal sheets or other potentially dangerous materials, but waste collectors work without basic equipment such as gloves and masks. Around 50-75 scavengers access the dump every day in search for plastics, aluminium or other metals to either recycle or sell them. Cases of injuries and deaths due to accidents with rubbish trucks and bulldozers were reported, not to mention the high likelihood of getting infections or diseases.

The dumpsite borders the industrial area at the outskirts of Sulaymaniyah and all nearby factories deposit waste and production residues in there.
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Start Date1991
Relevant government actorsKurdistan Regional Government (KRG)

Sulaymaniyah Governorate

Municipality of Sulaymaniyah
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersWaterkeepers Iraq -

Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative (ICSSI) -

Nature Iraq -
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Local ejos
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationArtistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Public campaigns
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Potential: Genetic contamination
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Infectious diseases
Potential: Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Displacement, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Project StatusIn operation
Development of AlternativesProposals put forward by activists and researchers encompass the conversion of the open dump into a sanitary landfill or its outright closure, identify a new landfill area, monitor pollution levels, segregate hazardous waste materials, implement leachate treatment, establish waste recycling plants, provide compensation to local communities, and undertake epidemiological studies.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.To date regional and local authorities have not taken any action to tackle the toxic pollution caused by untreated waste.
Sources and Materials

Othman, Nasih (2017) Environmental Health Assessment in Sulaymaniyah City and Vicinity
[click to view]

Aziz, Nigar A., Sabah M. Salih, and Nizar Y. Hama-Salh (2012) Pollution of Tanjero River by Some Heavy Metals Generated from Sewage Wastewater and Industrial Wastewater in Sulaimani District. Kirkuk University Journal for Scientific Studies, 7(1), 67-84.
[click to view]


Waterkeepers Iraq tracks massive waste oil spill in Sulaimani Dump
[click to view]

A Dirty Job: In Economic Crisis, Iraqi Kurdish Poor Turn Scavengers At Local Dump, Niqash
[click to view]

Tanjero: the Struggle to Clean Up a Neglected River, ICSSI
[click to view]

A toxic threat rises amid Kurdistan northern Iraq's prosperity, Ekurd Daily
[click to view]

Tinti, Alessandro (2017) Water Resources Management in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. IRIS Policy Report.
[click to view]

Media Links

First day of Tanjaro campaign, Waterkeepers Iraq
[click to view]

City Dump Disaster, video by Waterkeepers Iraq
[click to view]

Tanjaro Dump, video by Nature Iraq
[click to view]

Save Tanjaro campaign, Waterkeepers Iraq
[click to view]

Waterkeepers Iraq tracks massive waste oil spill in Sulaimani Dump, video
[click to view]

Other Documents

Tanjaro dumpsite Overview from the top of the landfill, May 2017
[click to view]

Tanjaro dumpsite_2
[click to view]

Tanjaro dumpsite_3
[click to view]

ICSSI campaign
[click to view]

ICSSI campaign_2
[click to view]

ICSSI campaign_3
[click to view]

Other CommentsThe entry is also based on in situ visits and interviews with local farmers and environmental activists by the author of this case form
Meta Information
ContributorAlessandro Tinti, Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies
Last update15/10/2018