Clean water for small village in southern Iraq

Al Jazeera, Iraq, June 10, 2005-For 8,000 people living in the small village of Al Jazeera in southern Iraq, clean drinking water is now a reality, after ACT member Norwegian Church Aid (NCA), in partnership with the Danish Refugee Council, installed a water purification plant.

"We have real faith in this project," said NCA's Hans-Erik Grimsrud, the water engineer responsible for setting up the project. "Villagers have been trained to run the plant and sell water at cost price in order to cover any running and maintenance costs," he explained, adding that "the fact that the local council is involved, gives us faith that this plant will continue provide water for the villagers for many years to come."

Grimsrud said that by selling the water, people could then generate income to pay those employed at the plant. "And the villagers themselves helped decide where the plant should be located and how it should be constructed, so we believe that they will feel a sense of ownership towards it," he said.

NCA/ACT has been active in Iraq since 1997 and has focused its activities on providing water to the local population. Iraq has one of the world's most hostile climates, and temperatures can reach up to 60 degrees Celsius during the summer months.

"We are renovating a waterworks plant just south of Baghdad," said Oddbjørn Flem, NCA's country representative for Iraq. "We began this project in 1997, and are now in the final phase. We are also working to renovate other water plants in Baghdad, and plan to lay new water pipes outside the northern town of Mosul," he said, explaining that although NCA hired local workers and used local contractors for larger projects.

"Water is a great problem in Iraq. The supply tends to be very polluted and the fact that Iraq is a low-lying country means that the water has an unusually high salt content," said Grimsrud. "This means that the water is, categorically speaking, undrinkable." According to the water engineer, this was the case in the village of Al Jazeera outside Basra in southern Iraq. The village lies in the swampland between the rivers Eufrat and Tigris, with the result that the water is extremely salty and highly polluted, as the two great rivers carry sewage and other wastewater from densely populated areas further upriver.

NCA is implementing a number of water projects in Iraq, by linking villages to the existing water network and installing water-purification equipment in hospitals.