U.S. Water News Online
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- This summer, the third since the fall of
Baghdad, has been the worst yet when it comes to basic services.
Interruptions to electricity and water supplies -- caused by both
decay and sabotage -- are driving up the frustrations of millions of
While last summer public anger was directed at the U.S.
government, today it's as likely to be aimed directly at Iraq's
interim government and officials.
Recently in the Shiite town of Samawa 150 miles south of Baghdad,
protests over joblessness and limited electricity and water supplies
turned into a riot outside the governor's office in which about 1,000
residents overturned and burned a police van. The riot ended when
police opened fire, killing one.
In a sign of how politically sensitive the matter has become, the
rioting saw Shiite Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari rush a delegation
of representatives to Samawa the next day. At a hastily convened
provincial council meeting in their presence, Gov. Muhammed
al-Hassani was then sacked.
And here in Baghdad, the militant Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr
has called for protests against the lack of power and water. This is
part of an ongoing campaign to shore up his power base among the
urban poor by targeting the failures of his more moderate political
opponents, who are now in power.
In a rare statement calling for the protests, Sadr blamed "the
occupier and the people who have traded on their religion and sold
their people" for Iraq's problems, an apparent reference to the
mainstream Shiite political parties that run the government.
Meanwhile, Baghdad has a new mayor, Hussein al-Tahhan, who
replaced Alaa al-Tamimi after he was run out of office by Shiite
militiamen. Tahhan told Reuters that, "I don't think a politician
should be a mayor, it should be someone who can spend all of his time
in the service of the people," criticizing Tamimi for not paying
enough attention to Baghdad's already crippled public services.
Iraq's electricity problems -- which in turn lead to frequent pump
shutdowns that deprive many neighborhoods of water, and frequently
leave pools of sewage decaying in the streets -- are a combination of
a run-down system, war-time damage, and ongoing insurgent sabotage.
The U.S. is in the process of spending about $19 billion on
long-term water and electricity projects, but about a quarter of this
money has been diverted to security because of the raging insurgency,
U.S. officials say. Even when electricity generation is improved at
the power plant, transformers and cables are easy insurgent targets,
with the net result that less power gets to Iraqi homes.
"Security increases costs by 10 to 25%, so we're not getting our
value for money. Security was factored in at a rate of 9% -- we
didn't know it would be this much," Brig. Gen. Bill McCoy told
Reuters during a tour this week of projects north of Baghdad. "We've
had to downsize in some areas. It took $3 billion out of water and
$500 million out of electricity," he said.
Iraqi officials said last month that the country would need an
estimated $20 billion over the next five years to restore full
electric power capacity and keep power flowing to the entire country.
Iraqi Electricity Minister Mohsen Shalash seemed confident that Iraq
would be able to restore full power within two years and that daily
demand -- estimated by the U.S. General Accounting Office to reach
8,500 megawatts this summer -- will climb to 18,000 megawatts by
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