A large block of land near Bnaslawa used for grazing sheep will soon become one of Erbil's prime recreation areas.
Hassan Ali Kirkuki guards and feeds his flock of sheep inside a fenced-in pasture; he takes them back to a settlement every night and noon. He uses this pasture temporarily because he will soon sell his sheep all together, but he also knows this fenced-in pasture near Bnaslawa and east of Erbil will soon become Hewar Park, something that will be "useful for the neighborhood."
The pasture will be transformed into a park in several stages. The current fence covers 520,000 square meters; thus, it will be the second largest park west of Erbil--eight times bigger than Shanadar Park in downtown Erbil.
Work is now ending on the first part of Hewar Park, which accounts for 40% of the land. Bnaslawa's old and new roads surround the park on both sides and a dry stream splits the park from the town's residential areas. On the other side of the park is a power station.
From the inside gate, the park is divided into two by two main paths that will soon be asphalted. The executive companies, Dosti and the Turkish EDA, are currently installing electricity and irrigation networks that are knee-level underground and deeper in some areas.
Areas between the main two paths and upward to the power station consist of clean soil. But downward to the stream, the soil is mostly stone. Project supervisors don't consider the stony soil a roadblock to growing flora.
The shepherd Kirkuki thinks that eucalyptus trees can survive in the area. "The stony soil could be much better than the red dirt," says Kirkuki, stressing the importance of good irrigation and fertilization. He owned an orchard in Shwan, near Kirkuk, before he was deported to Bnaslawa in the late 1980s. As for other trees that are new in Kurdistan--the same ones to be planted in the park--he isn't as sure of their usefulness.
The agricultural supervisor of the project, engineer Hawkar Dilshad, assured that the stony soil would not cause growth problems since they--the Directory of Erbil Parks--committed the executive companies to adding a 25-centimeter layer of clean soil to some limited locations inside the park. Another 15-centimeter layer of agricultural sand must be added to all of the land.
These layers "will totally solve the problem for grasses that will be planted," says the engineer. "As for the trees, they will be planted in digs that are also filled with clean soil and fertilizers."
Currently the added layers are less than 15 or even 10 centimeters; in some places it is thicker than standard. Head of the supervising committee, engineer Hiwa Ahmed, does not consider the thin layer as something that was overlooked by the companies, and he notes "the project hasn't yet been completed."
As planned, 600 eucalyptus trees will be planted around the park, according to information by the agriculture supervisor. Melia Azedarach will become the most frequent type with 800 trees. Two-hundred Brachychiton Populeum trees and 300 Cuperssus Arizonica trees will be planted as well, mostly beside the pathways. These types of trees, except for eucalyptus, are not indigenous to Kurdistan Region; regardless, they have been used a lot recently and have grown as expected during all four seasons.
Yards will become green with Iranian and Lebanese flowers as well as lawn grass. The area between the two main paths will be planted with Bermuda grass, which remains green year-round.
The cornerstone of this park--which will have details like fountains and play areas--was laid on December 27, 2010. A budget of 2 billion Iraqi dinars helped to complete the first stage in one year. Last year, an extra budget of 1 billion, 400 million--as well as lengthening the duration for completion--was suggested for the project. Stage two has not yet been completed.
Director of Erbil Parks, Nizar Omer, explains the delay is mainly because of two electricity lines, a 11 KV cable and a 33 KV cable, going under the park to nearby power stations. They caused a "big problem" for the sewage and pathways, says Omer. "We first didn't know they were there. We had twice announced a project to transform those cables, but no company applied because the dedicated budget was so small. We could only lift them after the third attempt."
After an extension of two months, the company has asked for another three months in order to compensate for lost time. But basic work of the first stage including asphalting walkways will end in two or three months, says Hiwa. Construction of the park office, its gate and water storage is already underway.
Planting will start in October, says Omer, who hopes for the park to be at least partially opened for visitors early next year. "Hewar Park creates a balance of green areas in Erbil. The big [Sami Abdulrahman] park is located in the west and some other parks have been built downtown; thus, Erbil was in need of such a big park in its eastern section," says Omer.
The directory is currently working on two other "important" projects--a park on 40,000 square meters in Badawa, also in eastern Erbil, and renovation of Gilkand Park next to Erbil International Hotel in the city center.
Thanks to the efforts of this directory, the rate of green land in Erbil reaches 6.5 percent, but they aim for more. Increasing green lands is not the government's responsibility alone, says Omer. People must raise trees too. "Home-building licenses should contain a condition that 10 to 15 square meters of gardens must be built with houses that are built on 200 square meters," suggests Omer, who believes that even two trees in every house can effectively increase the green rate.