Impact Of The Gulf War On Pollution In Kuwait


Pollution of fresh water means penetration of various pollutants in the rivers, lakes and groundwater. It occurs when there is a direct or indirect entering of contaminants in the water with the absence of quality measures of cleaning and disposal of hazardous substances. In most cases, pollution of fresh waters remains undetected because pollutants are usually dissolved in water. However, there could be exceptions which include foaming detergents, as well as oil products and raw sewage floating on the surface. There are a number of natural pollutants. Aluminum compounds present in soils penetrate the freshwater reservoirs as a result of chemical reactions. During floods magnesium compounds are washed out of the soil of the meadows, which result in considerable damage to fish stocks. However, a number of natural contaminants are negligible compared to the ones produced by human activity. This paper seeks to examine the impact of the Gulf War on pollution especially in Kuwait.

The Statement of the Problem

The Persian Gulf is the main water body in Kuwait and it covers about 600miles. It is one of the most strategic water ways in the world due to the fact that it provides medium for global oil transportation (Begum, 2015). The 1991 Gulf war resulted to untold damages and pollution to the environment including and not limited to water pollution (Morteza, 2006). The war between Iraq and Kuwait that lasted for eight years caused serious damage to the Persian Gulf and its biological resources. Several aquatic species lost their lives as a result of massive release of crude oil into the water body. Due to the vulnerability of the Persian Gulf, it is a Gulf of interest to the regional nations (Morteza, 2006). The pollution that was caused by the gulf war called for collaboration and joint efforts towards protecting the Persian Gulf from pollution and any form of environmental decadence. The effects of the Persian Gulf War are the center of this study. The study aims to analyze the aftermath of the war and the overall impacts that occurred as a result of the war.

The Persian Gulf Pollution

The Persian Gulf is an example of the high level of water pollution. It is a large body of water, which is subjected to many environmental problems, most of which are caused by humans. Different wars have significantly resulted to the most painful blow on the ecology of the area in the past decade. These include Iraq’s war against Iran, Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, the military intervention of the United States and its allies in the war and the military invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein. Only during the Iran-Iraq war, in the waters of the bay, about 6 million liters of oil were dropped (Kassim&Barcelo, 2009). As a result of the burning of oil wells by Iraqi forces, large amounts of crude oil fell into the sea.

Among the main causes of pollution in the Gulf, there is also the burning of oil wells Nouruz by Iraqi forces. During this period, in addition to pollution caused by the ships, undermining of mines and missiles hitting oil tankers, the greatest environmental damage was caused to northwestern shore of the Persian Gulf, where there were terminals and oil platforms of Kuwait. As a result, millions of tons of crude oil entered the Persian Gulf. Contact with such a huge volume of oil has led to the formation of a large oil spill in the area. The oil spill, killing the countless species of marine life, gradually moved to the east and southeast under the influence of winds (Kassim&Barcelo, 2009).

This kind of pollution has no analogs in the world today. That is why it is called the largest oil spill in the history of the world. 250 million gallons of oil entered the water during that time. Later, as a result of the attack of the multinational force on oil facilities and terminals of Kuwait, the source of the oil slick was burned on the shores of the Persian Gulf. Fire seized part of the oil slick. This event became a huge environmental disaster. Smoke from the fire covered the sky as a thick cloud, and was seen even by those living in remote eastern and south-eastern regions. “The smoke produced during the oil fires in Kuwait has significantly affected the climate as a result of of massive degeneration of the ozone layer” (Jone Gary, Environmental Scientist).

This disaster killed about 30 thousand specimens of birds, while wintering places for many migratory birds have been destroyed, and the bird population has decreased significantly. In addition, 20% of mangrove forests and 50% of coral reefs were lost. Marine plants over an area of 1,500 miles had been contaminated (Kassim&Barcelo, 2009).

Oil Spillage

The 1991 gulf war is said to have led to oil spillage of about eight million barrels. This was the largest oil spillage ever experienced in the world (William, 2013). The coastal areas of Kuwait, Iraq and Saudi Arabia were all fouled with Saudi Arabia having the worst damage. The pollution negatively impacted several multi-million dollar fisheries industries in the regional nations benefiting from the Persian Gulf (William, 2013). However, the largest pollution was experienced in Abu Ali Island that led to the death of several marine birds such as the grebes and cormorants (Morteza, 2016). Apart from just the water pollution in Kuwait, the explosion of the 700 mile pools of oil resulted to serious atmospheric pollution. The suit from the Kuwait fires were seen in snows and rainfall that ultimately increased the levels of water pollution (William, 2013).

Other Impacts

During the gulf war, at least 80 ships sank loaded with either oil or munition. These ships in addition to those that sank during the Iraq- Iran conflict remain the most serious sources of contamination of the Persian Gulf (Morteza, 2006). Kuwait water was also contaminated by sewage effluents that were released into the water body. As a result of the destruction of sewage plants in Kuwait during the Gulf war, about50, 000m3d-1 of sewage effluent was discharged into the water body. This resulted to pollution of public beaches, degeneration of water used for desalination and imbalance of the tidal ecosystem (Morteza 2016). The war also resulted to massive destruction of chemical plants that ultimately led to emission of toxic chemicals into the soil and water bodies. These chemicals have resulted to serious consequences for the power desalination plants in Kuwait such as contaminating the sole drinking water source in Kuwait (Morteza, 2006).

State of water in Kuwait

Kuwait is still struggling to cope up with the problems of the left oil lakes that are about 300 in number (Najem, 2005). The oil is seeping into the soil and the water table thus contaminating about forty million tonnes of soil and underground water. This has a direct impact on agriculture and water used for consumption. The citizens of Kuwait depend much on water from wells and this seepage of oil into the water table poses a serious challenge to the quality of drinking water (Najem, 200. However, due to desalination of water and massive treatment of water in Kuwait, the problem of water supply and consumption have been significantly managed to ensure the citizens receive clean and consumable water. Today, Kuwait desalinizes about 75% of its total water resources and 93% of it is clean for drinking and use for agricultural practices. However, Kuwait still faces the challenge of increasing demand of clean water (Kassim, 2009). The desalination plants’ capacity does not meet the increasing water demands of the population (Najem, 2005).

Today, Kuwait is one of the countries in the world that leads in production of frsh water from the sea. Large distillation plants in conjunction to power plants are being used to produce fresh water for consumption. Kuwait produces about 370mm3 of distilled water every year. Suffice to say, the water produced in Kuwait is clean and fit for consumption despite the effects of the Gulf war and water pollution impacts that resulted from the same (Mark, 2015).


In the legislation of the most countries, water pollution is regarded as an environmental crime. The objective basis of such crime is pollution, contamination, depletion of the surface of water, groundwater, and drinking water sources, as well as other changes to their properties, in the course of which substantial damage to animal or plant life, fish stocks, forestry or agriculture was caused. Depending on the severity of the consequences, water pollution can be considered an administrative or criminal offense. Laws are an effective means of preventing pollution, but it is difficult to achieve compliance. The international initiative regarding water pollution is based on the principle that the party guilty of pollution must take a full responsibility for the consequences.

The World Health Organization (WHO) published recommendations for permissible levels of contamination. For example, cadmium in the water content should not exceed 0,003 mg / L (Begum, 2015). Today, the European Community publishes directives on water quality, but European governments frequently fail to fulfill these requirements. Most of the EU member states exceed the levels of nitrate content in their waters. Under the legislation, all EU member states are required to establish special treatment plants in terms of the use of water for urban and industrial purposes and prevention of the river pollution. In most European countries, this work was carried out (Begum, 2015).


Water pollution can be considered as lowering of its quality as a result of entering of various physical, chemical or biological substances into rivers, streams, lakes, seas, and oceans. The first inexhaustible resource – fresh clean water – currently becomes exhausted. Today, many parts of the world lack the water suitable for drinking, irrigation and industrial production. Rational use of water resources is of great importance at present. Industrial wastewater ranks first place in the volume of damage they cause. However, pesticides, oxygen balance, eutrophication and heavy metals present a serious concern in terms of water pollution as well. The striking example of water pollution is events that Kuwait went through during desert storm war. Nowadays, there is the legislative basis for protection of water recourses in most countries; however, water pollution still remains an extremely acute problem.

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