Tens of fish farming ponds were demolished in Kirkuk as part of a campaign that includes hundreds of other ponds, prompting some of the owners of these ponds to sell their fish for a low price in order to avoid exacerbating losses.
The campaign, which was launched a few weeks ago, is being implemented by a joint security and administrative committee from the departments of agriculture and water resources, targeting “fish ponds that are not licensed and pose a threat to groundwater.”
“Because of a complaint filed by the Department of Water Resources, the committee demanded that I empty the fish farm as soon as possible, so I had to sell my fish in the market at a low price,” Hilal Jalal, owner of a fish farm in Daquq district south of Kirkuk, told KirkukNow.
The pond run by Hilal contained 10,000 fish, which he sold at a price of 4,250 Iraqi dinars IQD (USD2.4) per kilogram, while the real price was 6,500 IQD, according to Hilal, who stressed, “I suffered heavy losses. I sold my fish and the committee removed the fish tank.”
In 2022, the price of one kilogram of Daquq fish reached 11,000 IQD, achieving the highest price in the past 10 years.
The decision to remove fish farming ponds in several governorates, including Kirkuk, was issued more than a year ago by the Iraqi Council of Ministers, but its implementation was postponed more than once.
According to the investigations of (KirkukNow), in the district of Daquq (44 km south of the city of Kirkuk), there are approximately 3,000 fish ponds, which represent the source of livelihood for thousands of families, but the statistics of the Water Resources Department in Daquq indicate that only seven of them are licensed.
Video: Relevant local departments in cooperation with the security forces, demolish unlciensed fish farming ponds in Daquq. KirkukNow
The water of Daquq wells is characterized by its salinity, which, according to farmers, affects the taste and flavor of fish, boosting demand for it compared to fish farms in other regions.
Last January, the administration of Kirkuk said it seeking to prevent the implementation of a decision by the Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources to demolish unlicensed water wells, which if implemented would harm hundreds of farmers whose livelihood depends on fish ponds. On January 11, fish farmers of Daquq gathered in front of the mayor office and demanded the annulment of the decision of the Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources.
The campaign to remove unlicensed fish farms is part of procedures by departments of agriculture and water resources in cooperation with the Iraqi Security Forces ISF “to eliminate unlicensed fish ponds due to water scarcity and poor rainfall," as well as the abuses of national electricity and their impact on groundwater.
Iraq has been named the fifth-most vulnerable country to climate breakdown, affected by soaring temperatures, insufficient and diminishing rainfall, intensified droughts and water scarcity, frequent sand and dust storms, and flooding, says a report by the United Nations International Organization for Migration IOM (Migration, Environment and Climate Change in Iraq) published in August 2022.
Imad Rahmallah, director of the Water Resources Department in Daquq, told KirkukNow, “The committee has so far removed 36 fish ponds in different areas of Daquq, according to the decision of the Council of Ministers and the Ministry of Agriculture.”
Owners of fish ponds, through KirkukNow, have called on the Iraqi government to reverse the decision to remove the ponds, and they also organized a demonstration against the government's decision.
"Unfortunately, the committee is currently demolishing and removing the emptied ponds. As for the ponds that have not yet been cleared yet, the owners are forced to sign a pledge to demolish the ponds after emptying it," said Shalal Ahmed, the owner of a fish farm in Daquq.
The vast majority of fish farming ponds in Kirkuk depend on water, and each dunum of land that is converted into fish ponds can accommodate 750 to 1000 fish. Daquq farmers buy small fish from the city of Hilla, the center of Babil Governorate, and raise them in fish farming ponds.
The director of the Water Resources Department in Daquq said, "The demolition and removal campaign includes, at the current stage, ponds that have been emptied and no longer contain fish, but it will expand to include all ponds in Daquq."
According to (KirkukNow) investigations, in the district of Daquq (44 km south of the city of Kirkuk), there are approximately 3,000 fish ponds, which represent the source of livelihood for thousands of families, yet only seven of them are licensed, shows the figures by the Water Resources Department in Daquq.