The National - News
GREEN REBIRTH FOR CITY THAT ISIS OCCUPIED, THEN DESTROYED
▶ Donated trees to be planted as part of blogger’s campaign to restore Mosul to former glory
More than 5,000 trees are being planted across the war-torn city of Mosul as part of a climate initiative that began with a single tweet.
Cypress, pine, lemon and orange trees will be planted in 12 zones across the city in northern Iraq.
Sites of importance to the city’s Christian, Muslim and Yazidi communities have been chosen to bring people together and create a healthier environment.
The initiative was started by the Mosul Eye, a blog founded by Omar Mohammed when his city was occupied by ISIS in June 2014.
The three-year occupation destroyed parts of the city and thousands fled their homes. Some are only now returning.
“It’s time to put Mosul on the world map,” said Mr Mohammed.
“We need to move beyond humanitarian projects. We can’t just be a postwar city.”
He said the project would bring the city into the global discussion about how to tackle climate change.
Historically, the city was referred to by its residents as Green Mosul, Mr Mohammed told The National.
But long-term conflict and climate-change induced problems including pollution, desertification and flash flooding took a toll.
Mr Mohammed said when he realised how far the city had fallen from its traditional splendour, “I knew I had to do something”.
After a successful initiative to gather books for the University of Mosul Library, he decided to try the same approach for sourcing trees to beautify the rubble-strewn streets.
In July of last year he tweeted a request for help. The French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs offered its support. Trees have also come from private donors in Mosul and throughout the world.
Members of the Green Mosul team, along with the university faculty and students, activists, government officials and international guests began planting the trees after a short ceremony to mark the occasion on Wednesday.
It will take until next February to plant the 5,000 donated trees. Locations for planting include the University of Mosul, the town of Telskuf north of the city and the offices of the Sinjar Academy.
Heritage sites including the Mosul Museum and Al Nuri Mosque complex will also have new trees. The sites are being rebuilt by Unesco, with UAE funding, after they were destroyed by ISIS as they were defeated in 2017.
The trees will be watered by a sustainable irrigation system, using recycled water.
“The planting will improve the environmental situation especially in terms of air quality as these trees produce thick vegetation,” said project director Anas Al Tayea.
“The choice of sites will also contribute to our having a direct environmental impact, as we will plant at many populated locations.”
Don’t give up. We will not always be just a stronghold of ISIS. I want to change the headlines of my city
Green Mosul campaigner
A special tree will be planted in honour of Pope Francis, in Hosh Al Bieaa, the Church Square.
“It will honour the message of his pilgrimage to Old Mosul in March earlier this year,” the Mosul Eye team said. “A message of hope, that a city so deeply scarred by war and terrorism can recover anew.”
As well as its environmental benefits, it is hoped that the Green Mosul plan will have a long-lasting social impact.
Volunteers from organisations across the city will take part in planting the trees.
Mr Mohammed hopes the planting will also be a part of a brighter future for Iraq’s young people. “Those who grow up with these trees will see a different life,” he said.
“Don’t give up on Mosul and our people. We will not always be just a stronghold of ISIS. I want to change the headlines of my city.”