Today I am in Dahuk in Iraqi Kurdistan for a spatial planning workshop.
These are troubling times. The recent takeover of disputed areas by Iraq’s central government have been rocking the local administrations to their core. Add to this an economic crisis plus a displacement crisis, and it is easy to see how Dahuk’s urban space is strained to the point of failing to support the people in it.
Multiple camps surround Dahuk: camps for displaced from other parts of Iraq and camps for refugees from Syria. Interestingly, some of these camps are pretty well integrated with Dahuk itself (which also hosts a great many displaced). There is free movement in and out, everyone is allowed to work, and commerce in camps is part of Dahuk’s economy at large.
Getting officials, citizens and displaced out of crisis management mode and into long-term thinking takes much more than a workshop. Nevertheless, two issues concentrate minds. The first is the pollution of water, which stands to threaten the city’s survival in the long term. And the second is civil protection. Regulations go unheaded, building materials are often substandard, risks are not assessed. Small events thereby turn into emergencies.