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Aug 7, 2017

Green Kurdistan: a project by Rzgar Al-bewani

Kurdistan, a country that started to progress and bring innovative projects to the region around 2003. Such progress turned out to be rather rapid. However, like most countries in the Middle East, the government does not care about environmental issues as much as is needed. Additionally, the local population lacks awareness of environmental issues and specifically on topic related waste minimization.
As a Masters Student, I wanted to bring awareness to such issues and help the region. I realized that if the local population could use cloth bags instead of plastic bags for their shopping, it could drastically reduce the use of plastic in the Kurdistan Region. As such, I launched the Green Kurdistan project at Stuttgart University at the beginning of 2016. Afterwards, few  international volunteers joined the initiative and it grew to become a group of 11 passionate individuals from different masters program and engineering professions. The project gained support as well from the University Camp Environmental group (Umweltgewrkschaft).
The first stage of our project was working on social media by writing articles and interviewing several journalists as well as publishing our activities through the newspapers. Second stage involved the collection of cloth bags in Germany where more than 1000 bags were collected and distributed partly throughout Kurdistan. The project was as well highlighted through seminars and events in-addition to being involved in a 3 day event held in Stuttgart center where people usually gather and do their activities. 
In-terms of project funding, we participated in a competition and won a financial prize given by Stuttgart university.  Consequently, the project was selected by Stuttgarter Change Labs program who are currently funding it at the moment. The Stuttgarter Change Labs is a program administered by the Ministry of Science, Art and Research of Germany to financially support sustainable projects.
To bring more light to the project in Kurdistan, we established a small scale enterprise by buying sewing machines that were used by local women to start making cloth bags as means of reviving the local economy and bringing social change. Till now, hundreds of bags have been already produced and distributed throughout the cities. Such initiative was broadcasted on local TV shows in Kurdistan.
All the above plans had been established in collaboration with local environmental organisations. It is important to mention that the execution of such project would bring the following advantages to the country:
·      Reduction of plastic waste generation in Kurdistan region.
·      Environmental awareness and education of the local community
The next steps the project aims to achieve are as follows:
1.     Promoting the use of cloth bags throughout the country by producing as many as possible. 
2.     Pressure the Ministry of Environment and Municipalities to reduce the use of imported plastic bags by putting higher fees.
3.     Push a regulation which replaces plastic bags with textile and paper bags in markets and stores.

Local bag used by Locals in Kurdistan

Meeting with a journalist

Some of the project members

Green Kurdistan Project featured on one of Kurdistan’s Local TV shows.

About the author:
Rzgar is originally from Kurdistan, North of Iraq. He holds a Bachelor in civil engineering and is currently pursuing a masters degree in Air quality control, solid waste and wastewater process engineering at Stuttgart Universität in Germany. As a civil engineer, it would have been easier for him to pursue a masters in the  construction as it raises prospects for a better employment back home however he was interested in exploring the environmental and waste management field as such topics need attention and awareness in the country. He has passion and drive to help his region and neighboring Middle Eastern countries by shedding light and creating innovative environmental projects that reflect positive change.

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