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Gravel mining in Goptapa, Kurdistan Region of Iraq

The Lesser Zab has been the lifeblood of riverside farming communities from time immemorial. Unrestricted gravel mining now endangers that delicate connection.


Once wooded and fertile, the agricultural and grazing lands of Goptapa along the Lesser Zab River have been profoundly damaged by intensive in-stream gravel mining within a generation. 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Gravel mining in Goptapa, Kurdistan Region of Iraq
State or province:Erbil Governorate
(municipality or city/town)Goptapa
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict: 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Dams and water distribution conflicts
Building materials extraction (quarries, sand, gravel)
Specific commodities:Sand, gravel
Project Details and Actors
Project details:

As of November 2016, WI found 12 gravel mines in the bend of the Lesser Zab north of Goptapa, of which 7 were then operating at full capacity. Farmers mentioned that several more can be found along the river, but those were not included in the scope of the case study. Anyway, such high number in a limited area is evidence for the undue operations that drastically altered the physical characteristics of the river. Reportedly, each mine produces about 20 trucks of sand, 12 of large gravel, and 7 of smaller gravel per day, which roughly translates into a gross daily income of 1,887.52 USD.

Type of populationRural
Affected Population:~ 700
Start of the conflict:1991
Relevant government actors:KRG Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources

Erbil Directorate of Environment

Agricultural Department of the Erbil Governorate

Koya Directorate of Environment
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Waterkeepers Iraq -
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityLATENT (no visible organising at the moment)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
translation missing: en.m.mobilizing_groups.fisher_people
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Media based activism/alternative media
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Deaths
Potential: Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusIn operation
Development of alternatives:WI presented the findings of the case study to both target communities and the general public in various occasions and locations to raise attention on the issue. Political instability was reported as a main obstacle to collect information and carry out effective outreach campaigns. WI called for the urgent need to undertake the restoration of the river valley and move gravel pits in dry areas away from watercourses. However, the NGO noted that care and economic planning would be needed as well given that many local people rely on gravel mining.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Despite WI involvement, which provided local communities with valuable information about the degradation of the river ecology, neither social mobilisation, nor government actions followed up on the assessment.
Sources and Materials
Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Riverine Ecosystems Health Project of Iraqi Kurdistan, Final Report - Waterkeepers Iraq
[click to view]

Gravel Mining Case Study - Waterkeepers Iraq
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Goptapa Village .. Before And After.. - Nature Iraq
[click to view]

Gravel Mining Destroys Our Rivers - documentary by Waterkeepers Iraq
[click to view]

Gravel Mines Poster - Waterkeepers Iraq
[click to view]

Gravel Mines Poster EN - Waterkeepers Iraq
[click to view]

Other documents

Gravel mine in Goptapa_3 February 2016 - Source: Waterkeepers Iraq
[click to view]

Gravel mine in Goptapa_4 February 2016 - Source: Waterkeepers Iraq
[click to view]

Gravel mine in Goptapa February 2016 - Source: Waterkeepers Iraq
[click to view]

Gravel mine in Goptapa_5 February 2016 - Source: Waterkeepers Iraq
[click to view]

Gravel mine in Goptapa_6 February 2016 - Source: Waterkeepers Iraq
[click to view]

Gravel mine in Goptapa_2 February 2016 - Source: Waterkeepers Iraq
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Alessandro Tinti, Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies
Last update15/10/2018