Baghdad 'Drowning in Sewage'

Submitted by SadInAmerica on Tue, 02/12/2008 - 11:19pm.

BAGHDAD is drowning in sewage, thirsty for water and largely powerless, an Iraqi official said today in a grim assessment of services in the capital five years after the US-led invasion.


One of three sewage treatment plants is out of commission, one is working at stuttering capacity while a pipe blockage in the third means sewage is forming a foul lake so large it can be seen "as a big black spot on Google Earth," said Tahseen Sheikhly, civilian spokesman for the Baghdad security plan.

Mr Sheikhly said water pipes, where they exist, are so old it is not possible to pump water at a sufficient rate to meet demands - leaving many neighbourhoods parched.

A sharp deficit of 3000 megawatts of electricity adds to the woes of residents, who have to rely on neighbourhood generators to light up their lives and heat their homes.

"Sewerage, water and electricity are our three main problems," said Mr Sheikhly.

Many of these problems date back to the Saddam Hussein regime when not enough attention was paid to basic infrastructure, he said, and insurgency, sectarian violence and vandalism since the US-led invasion in March 2003 had further ravaged services in the capital.

More positively, he said, the extensive Baghdad security plan, known as Operation Fardh al-Qanoon (Imposing Law) and launched on February 14 last year, was allowing services to be gradually restored.

"After the destruction, there is now the reconstruction," Mr Sheikhly said. "We have solved many of the security problems; now we can focus on rebuilding."

Education and health across Iraq had both seen improvements, according to US military commander Brigadier-General Jeffrey Dorko of the US Gulf Regional Division, which is engaged in reconstruction projects.

Brig-Gen Dorko said 76 new health clinics - 21 of them in Baghdad - had been built while 1885 new schools had been constructed countrywide and another 1604 repaired.

He said the demand for electricity was likely to outstrip supply for several years because many Iraqi power stations had been damaged or destroyed and commissioning new ones would take anything up to four years.

Demand was increasing, Brig-Gen Dorko said, because Iraqis were increasingly buying electrical appliances as the security situation improved.

Asked if it may take 10 years before Baghdad receives full power 24 hours a day, he said: "There are so many variables... but I think it will be less than 10 years."

Mr Sheikhly said once the annual budget is approved by parliament - possibly tomorrow - new funds would allow a faster roll-out of services in the beleaguered capital.

"Reconstruction will be our main focus in 2008," he said.


From correspondents in Baghdad - February 04, 2008 -

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Submitted by SadInAmerica on Tue, 02/12/2008 - 11:19pm.