Iraq: Clean water for Al Jazeera

Norwegian Church Aid, together with the Danish Refugee Council, has installed a water purification plant to provide drinking water for the 8000 inhabitants of Al Jazeera village in Iraq.

"We have real faith in this project: villagers have been trained in how to run the plant and sell water at cost price in order to cover any running and maintenance costs. 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. By selling the water, we can also generate funds with which 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," says Norwegian Church Aid's Hans-Erik Grimsrud, a water engineer responsible for setting up the project.

Norwegian Church Aid has been active in Iraq since 1997 and has focused its activities around the provision of water for the local population. Iraq has one of the world's most hostile climates, and temperatures can reach up to 60 degrees during the summer months.

Undrinkable water

"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. This means that the water is, categorically speaking, undrinkable. This is 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. The water there is extremely salty and is highly polluted, because the two great rivers carry sewage and other waste water from densely-populated areas further upriver," Grimsrud explains.

Norwegian Church Aid is currently running a number of water projects in Iraq, linking villages to the existing water network and installing water purifying equipment in hospitals.

"We are renovating a waterworks plant just south of Baghdad. 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. We hire local workers and use contractors for larger projects, but Norwegian Church Aid always has full control over developments," says Oddbjørn Flem, Norwegian Church Aid's country representative for Iraq.

For more information, contact:

Elisabeth Mustorp, Programme Coordinator, Iraq, tel. (+47) 22 09 27 80

Laurie MacGregor, Press officer, mobile: (+47) 47 41 31 15