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    Posted August 5, 2012 by
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    Swimming Campaign to Raise Awareness of Clean Water in Iraq


    On Friday 3rd August the Upper Tigris Waterkeeper, Nabil Musa (Nature Iraq) and Beth Newton swam from Bitwen lake, through the gorge, to Dukan Lake, a distance of approximately 10 km. This was part of a campaign to raise awareness amongst the public of the need to protect waterways, rivers and lakes and do everything possible to keep them clean.


    Nabil Musa hatched the idea a few months ago. He has been swimming regularly in the lake over the past few years with Beth and other friends, all of whom feel passionate about the enjoyment to be experienced in the natural environment if it is treated well and protected. Nabil and Beth decided they would swim a longer distance than usual to bring attention to the beautiful and unique nature of the region and the simultaneous need to protect the waters if enjoyment is to continue. As the Upper Tigris Waterkeeper, Nabil felt it was essential to campaign in an active way in order to sensitize people to the issue of maintaining clean water for swimming, drinking and fishing.


    Nabil, Beth and a small team of three others who had come along to drive the boat and film the action arrived at Lake Dukan late afternoon on Thursday. After putting the boat together and packing it with supplies of water, food and camping equipment, they rode to the shore of Bitwen Lake and set up camp for the night. It was a beautiful night – the moon almost full, the air still and calm and only the occasional sound of a fish jumping out of the water to break the silence. After a few hours sleep, they woke before sunrise to make preparations for the swim and at 5:30am they started the first stretch, crossing Bitwen Lake and entering the gorge. The conditions could not have been better – barely any breeze, a clear sky and the beautiful reflection of the rocks in the water through which they swam. And this is how it remained for the rest of the day – calm, peaceful and serene, even as the sun rose higher in the sky and the day heated up.


    With one major stop to eat, drink, and rest a little, Nabil and Beth continued swimming during the morning and afternoon, breaking their rhythm for only three brief stops throughout the rest of the swim. Although tiring at times, the beauty of the nature surrounding them kept them motivated and inspired to continue. The gorge itself is truly stunning, with unusual rock formations and varied scenes. Sheer and steeper rocks give way, at times, to softly rolling hills where cows graze. At one point they passed a village perched on the hillside, in an enviable location. The occasional fishing boat passed, and now and then, a boat carrying people who were also enjoying the scenery sped by.


    As someone who spends much of his working time near the different waters of the region, Nab couldn’t help but notice the occasional deterioration in the water quality. During the course of the day, he swam through areas where oil and scum formed a film over the water’s surface and areas where trash lined the water’s shores. Inevitably, the trash and water quality worsens significantly nearer to those areas where people spend time picnicking and swimming. While some may be disheartened by this sight, it is also a sign that it is in the hands of the people to keep their waters clean and recognize the need to look after their environment as they would their own homes.


    At around 2:30pm, Nabil and Beth emerged from the gorge and started, perhaps, the hardest stage of the journey from one side of Lake Dukan to the other. With the sun high in the sky, and their bodies feeling a little tired after swimming since 5:30am, they slowly moved through the waters towards their end point. They arrived at 4pm, tired but exhilarated and almost wishing they could continue swimming. The campaign, to encourage people to take responsibility for their waters and contribute to their protection in whatever small ways they can, will hopefully be the first of other swims and events to inspire and motivate the publi

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