Iraq: Water plant sabotage adds to supply shortages

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
BAGHDAD, 24 Jul 2005 (IRIN) - Only a month after the sabotage of water pipes in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, a second attack last week has again left thousands without mains water supplies, according to local officials.

An estimated one million people in the districts of al-Ubaidi, al-Khaleej and parts of Sadr City, to the east of Baghdad, and al-Jihad, al-Shurta, to the west of the capital, have been badly affected.

The water mains in Baghdad were first attacked by insurgents in mid-June. It took a week or so before the authorities were able to restore service to most of the affected areas, such as Mansoor, Yarmouk and Kadhimiya. Piped supplies were never resumed in some districts such as al-Jihad and al- Shurta, which have since been relying on tanker deliveries.

This time the power supply for al-Tarmia water plant, 60 km to the north of Baghdad, was targeted. The plant has been unable to pump water as a result.

"Our generators cannot provide enough power to run the water plant," said Adel al-Ardawi, a spokesman for the local municipality.

Although water shortages are common in Iraq during the summer, the plant sabotage has worsened the situation, according to local officials.

Haifa Fayyadh, a civil servant who lives in al-Jihad neighbourhood, said that residents were still suffering the effects of the first incident, and that there had been no piped water in the area for more than a month now.

"I have to bring the water from the old well in my neighbourhood," he said. "We use it for washing and cleaning, and we buy bottled mineral water for drinking, which is expensive."

In desperation, people across the capital have resorted to drawing water directly from the river, reusing old dilapidated wells and even digging their own wells in their gardens, giving rise to major health concerns.

Shop owners are taking advantage by increasing the cost of bottled water, local residents said. The average Iraqi is not able to afford this, in a country that has suffered from several conflicts and where the entire nation is dependent on food rations.

The price of water has risen from US $0.50 to $0.75 for a 1 litre bottle since the attack last week, according to local residents.

The Baghdad authorities are working on fixing the power cut at al-Tarmia and have started to truck in water supplies to some of the affected districts, but are not able to reach the entire affected population.

Even when functioning properly the water plant, located on the banks of the Tigris River, provides Baghdad with only 2.25 million gallons of pure water per day.

However, the city's real need is 3.25 million gallons, officials said, pointing to another more long-term problem.


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