Wednesday, September 02, 2009

WWB: lack of electricity and clean water

WHAT WAR BRINGS: lack of electricity and clean water

No one can say that a lack of electricity is a part of all wars and occupations, since we didn’t even have electricity for most folks until the 20th century. But it certainly is a part of the US occupation of Iraq, and to some extent Afghanistan too. As to clean water – this is also not available six years after invasion (for Iraq) and eight years after invasion (for many parts of Afghanistan). I really have no idea if earlier wars and occupations had a lack of clean water available, but I suspect they did.

Summer heat, power crisis turn Iraqis’ lives into hell in Ramadan

As Ramadan began, Iraqis agreed that the high temperature and non-stop power cutoff, let alone security problem and crazy price hikes, are the most serious problems facing them during the holy Muslim fasting month. “Frankly, I don’t have a clue as to how we should be fasting during this month under this torrid hot weather and constant cutoffs of electricity supply. May God help us,” Qassem Mohammed, an employee who lives in al-Bayaa neighborhood, central Baghdad, told Aswat al-Iraq news agency.

This article goes on to claim that the lack of water in Iraq (they are in a severe drought) has more than doubled the price of fruits and vegetables. They also claim that the security situation has contributed to the increase in prices of all food.

Most Baghdad residents have electricity for less than eight hours a day, and their summer temperatures regularly get higher than 110 degrees. On top of that, there are sands storms which affect the health of people with asthma or respiratory diseases, and not being able to run the air conditioner means that they have to breathe the sand.

Six years after invasion, electricity still scarce in Baghdad

This summer has come with its own setbacks. Seven power lines have been sabotaged, and sandstorms caused malfunctions in natural gas-burning generating plants. Power shortfalls also occurred when Kuwait held up fuel deliveries and Iranian power lines that feed Iraq went down. Little relief is on the immediate horizon. The best hope comes in the form of two major contracts — one with General Electric and one with Siemens — that promise to double Iraq's electric generating capacity by sometime in 2011. Together, the contracts are expected to cost Iraq more than $5 billion.

Iraqis obtain electricity by running small generators that they own, and by paying for large neighborhood generators run by private residents. This is often an experience they cannot bear. Fuel costs are high.

Lack of electricity has been an ongoing problem since the US invasion. Promises were made to provide more electricity, but that has not happened. In this regard, the Iraqi people were better off under Saddam. This is due to US incompetence, the bombing of infrastructure by both US forces and insurgents, and corruption… lots of corruption. Billions of dollars have been lost to corruption. The power supply coming from Iran was recently disrupted (not sure why), and Kuwait has not always provided needed fuel this summer. All these factors contribute to the lack of electrical power.

And even as recently as this summer, there are still bombs planted under power lines, which destroy them.

Here is another report on the state of electricity in Iraq.

Sand Storms and Electricity

Among all the kinds of public services that Iraqis need, the electricity power supply is the most important ones. Except for Kurdistan region which has almost 20 to 22 hours of power supply a day, all the rest 15 Iraqi provinces have it for less than five hours a day and even these five hours are not full five hours. Two days ago, I called a friend in Basra in south Iraq and he told me that even within the one hours they have each four or five hours, they have a power failure. I don't know what the Iraqi ministry of electricity was doing during six years since the invasion but definitely it did not implement any project because the power supply did not improve, on the contrary, it became worse.

Iraqis often spend the nights sleeping on their roofs, since it is cooler up there. Here’s one story:

Yesterday night, I decided to return back in time and sleep my current summer nights as my ancestors used to. I started again sleeping on the roof of my house again to guarantee a full night sleep instead of getting us every two hours because of the cut of electricity. For the first time since the start of summer, I could sleep for full seven hours without the need to wake up to turn on the small generator of the family.

There are promises to improve the situation, at least in Baghdad. The Iraqi government and UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) are going to work to improve service delivery of water, sewer, and electricity.

Welcome move to upgrade Baghdad slums

"This is really good news; we hope it will put an end to our chronic suffering," said Dhia Hameed Mansour, 46, who works at a grocery in the slums of Baghdad's Sadr City. "Our potable water is often mixed with sewage, our houses are flooded when it rains and we have less than 10 hours of electricity a day. "For years, we've not breathed fresh air, [but only] smelled sewage and [rubbish] has piled up in our neighbourhood. Even the parks have been turned into garbage dumps where sometimes we burn it when government garbage cleaners do not show up," he said.

Mansour is among some 2.5 million people living in this eastern suburb of Baghdad, about 21 sqkm accommodating the largest concentration of Shias in Iraq, mostly in cramped houses packed along narrow alleyways. Mounds of festering rubbish grow higher. Small canals are clogged with sewage, producing an overwhelming stench. Power outages are common and much of the area lacks clean drinking water.

…..Only half of Iraq's 25 million people have access to regular safe water supplies and 9 percent of the urban population outside Baghdad have access to sewage collection and treatment services, the report states.

Due to the years of drought, the supply of electricity in southern Iraq has decreased significantly, because electricity is generated through hydro-power. If the level of the Euphrates River goes down any more, then the city of Nasiriyah will have a total blackout. Small towns along the river are being voluntarily evacuated because they cannot drink the water. It has become infested with ocean water, and salinity levels are too high.

Water shortage threatens two million people in southern Iraq

A water shortage described as the most critical since the earliest days of Iraq's civilisation is threatening to leave up to 2 million people in the south of the country without electricity and almost as many without drinking water. An already meagre supply of electricity to Iraq's fourth-largest city of Nasiriyah has fallen by 50% during the last three weeks because of the rapidly falling levels of the Euphrates river, which has only two of four power-generating turbines left working.

….."Not even during Saddam's time did we face the prospect of something so grave," said Nasiriyah's governor, Qusey al-Ebadi. Just east of the city, the Marsh Arabs are also on the edge of a crisis – unprecedented even during the three decades of reprisals they faced under the former dictator. "The current level of the Euphrates cannot feed the small tributaries that give water to the marshlands," he continued. "The people there have started to dig wells for their own survival. There is no water to use for washing, because it is stagnant and contaminated.

Drought is not part of What War Brings, but the overall poor security and poor services make handling the drought more difficult.

In spite of all the hardships due to a lack of electricity (or maybe because of it), the Iraqi people can still make jokes about the situation.

Here’s one:

An Iraqi man found a Genie’s lamp quickly he rubbed it and a Genie appears: Master, all your wishes will come true. The Iraqi man quickly asked for only one wish not three: Make us a bridge from Baghdad to Sweden so all of us can leave. The Genie responded: ask for something reasonable!!! The Iraqi man responded: Oh you are right then I wish that the electricity in Iraq will be fixed. The Genie quickly responded: hmmmmmm lets go back to the bridge to Sweden. Do you want it one or two lanes bridge?!!

And here are a couple more:

Dark humor flips on when the lights go out in a city that still suffers from crippling power outages despite the billions of dollars that have been invested in its grid. “Electricity is dead. Pray for its soul," reads graffiti scrawled along a wall in central Baghdad's Karrada neighborhood.

"I miss electricity so much I want to feel an electric shock, just so I know we have it," said Falah Hasan Ali , 23, a resident of Baghdad's Sadr City district who sleeps on his roof to escape the nighttime heat.

And, over in Afghanistan, there are also severe problems with electricity and clean water – at least for the common folk. It is claimed that (for most of the country) the situation is worse than pre-invasion levels. But that was hard to confirm, since Afghanistan basically didn’t have electricity when the US troops invaded. That has not changed much, even with the millions of dollars thrown at the problem. This next article is talking about Jalalabad, a city in Helmand Province.

Residents seek power supply from Kajaki Dam

Abdul Malik, dweller of Tor Tank locality of this provincial capital, told Pajhwok Afghan News the city had been distributed into four sections. Areas housing parliamentarians, senior government officials and wealthy people had no power outages, but places like Kala-e-Kohna, Safiyan, Kart-e-Lagan etc get power supply for only half an hour electricity or even less than that in 24 hours, said Malik.

It also depends on where you live – apparently in Kabul, electricity is functioning and available most of the time for most of the city. But only about 7% of the rest of the country has electricity, per a report from 2007.

Electricity Supply in Afghanistan

For most people in the Afghan capital Kabul, electricity used to be something of a luxury, but thanks to neighbouring Uzbekistan many homes now enjoy almost uninterrupted power from January 2009. Afghanistan is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. Three decades of war have destroyed what little infrastructure existed and, despite millions of dollars of aid, progress has been slow.

A report from 2008 said that said that only 13% of Afghans have access to safe drinking water, 12% to adequate sanitation, and just 6% to electricity. And this report also states that a large part of the reasons for these figures (in spite of millions of dollars of aid) is corruption. Afghanistan is rated one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

That is another thing war brings – corruption. I wrote a post on that.

And the water supply in Afghanistan is also a mixed bag – some areas have clean water, some do not. Afghanistan (like Iraq) is suffering from drought. According to the report below, only about 20% of Afghans has access to safe drinking water.

Water a serious problem nationwide

Water is a major problem in rural and urban areas due to water scarcity, mismanagement and damaged water systems," Pekka Haavisto, the chairman of the UNEP Afghanistan Task Force, told IRIN in the capital, Kabul. According to the UNEP Post-Conflict Environment Assessment report on Afghanistan, whereas the country as a whole uses less than one-third of its potential 75,000 million cubic metres of water resources, regional differences in supply, inefficient use and wastage mean that a major part of the country experiences scarcity. "Water quality, quantity, and its guaranteed availability to all people regardless of income or social status is one of the most pressing challenges facing not only Afghanistan but also the world community today," Haavisto remarked.

Clean water is needed for survival.

The lack of electricity has impacts on people’s health, security, education and economic opportunities. Electricity is very important.

There is an aid group called CONCERN WORLDWIDE who are working on micro-hydro power projects in some villages in northern Afghanistan. This is greatly changing the lives of those residents in the villages, and it is a positive change. It is a positive change for the environment too, since trees are not chopped down and kerosene is not burned. You can donate at this link.

If you support the continued occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan, or the bombing of Pakistan, then you support WHAT WAR BRINGS: lack of electricity and clean water.

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