photo: Eddy van Wessel


Friday, February 28, 2014

Cold under blue plastic

Blue plastic on the roofs are token for Iraqi Kurdistan. On the roofs of the buildings that are being repaired in the citadel of Erbil. On the roofs in the villages that you pass by when driving through Kurdistan. Covering houses in the bazaar of Sulaymaniya, the centre of Koya. Blue plastic is everywhere. 

When the first rains hit Kurdistan, there is a run on the plastic shops in the bazaar to buy new sheets to cover the leaking roofs. Stones are placed on the corners to make sure the plastic stays in place.

It is fitting for a third world country, or for a developing country. For villages full of mud houses. But is it still fitting for Iraqi Kurdistan, that has moved on during the economic boom of the past years? That has built houses reminiscent to palaces?

Roofs leak because they need repairs, or simply because they have not been well made. Because that did not seem important. Houses in Kurdistan are built for the summer, but how about the four to five months when rain, cold and even snow visit the country?

When the cold comes in January and February, people group together around all kinds of heaters. Kerosene heaters slowly poison children and give them asthma. Electric heaters are often not safe enough. So when the electricity allows, air-conditioning units are turned on to heat; put on the highest temperature possible and still not heating the room. Yet the electricity that is used is enormous.

 When I moved to Pak City in Sulaymaniya some five years ago, I was happy to notice the radiators in my apartment. How disappointed I was, when winter came and they did not work. People did not want to pay extra for the fuel needed to run the central heating, I was told.

How short sighted! Not only do they spend more on electricity bills, central heating means the whole house can be heated with less energy. When I go back to Amsterdam, that’s what I enjoy most: a well heated house, with no cracks in windows for the pipes of the AC that let in the cold wind.

Perhaps it is the next step for Kurdistan. But it needs vision and planning. It needs architects and builders to build houses with central heating. It needs companies that deliver the right fuel for it’s engines. It needs people to realize that they can enjoy a warm atmosphere in winter.

And then, as people will be using less electricity, the national grid could provide enough for 24 hours a day coverage. But for this to happen, a lot has to happen. How much longer will we huddle around a kerosene heater under blue plastic?

This blog was first published in Kurdish in the daily Kurdistani Nwe

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