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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

IRAQ: Aid to the power sector raises hope of a better future

BAGHDAD, 1 March 2005 (IRIN) - The large number of power restoration projects being carried out across Iraq by the UN and other international organisations should soon help the new government give Iraqis a better quality of life, officials said.

"We hope that all these small improvements when brought together can bring improvements to Iraq, we deserve it after all of these years of destruction and sanctions," Salam Hamidy, an official from the Ministry of Electricity (MoE), told IRIN in Baghdad.

One United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) project, which will help in operating the power system, was initiated in the Jordanian capital Amman, last week. A team of Iraqi engineers will receive training for a month on Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in management of the electricity distribution facilities.

The training, carried out in the neighbouring country for security reasons, is designed to reinforce knowledge in distribution network data collection and the improvement of power and electricity development.

UNDP, in partnership with the Japan Bank International Cooperation (JBIC), has also been providing the MoE with efficient new equipment and advice on the best ways to help develop a better distribution network in the country.

"Once this long-term exercise has been completed, the MoE will be in a position to accurately identify future needs for rehabilitating and expanding the distribution network and to prioritise these needs," Abdul Azize Ahmed, UNDP electricity programme adviser in Amman, told IRIN.

At the same time, UNDP has been supporting the directorate of planning, part of the MoE, and some of its directorates in the south, by providing office equipment such as computers, printers and plotters, which help in the designing of electrical plants. Funds for these have been provided from some donor-funded projects and core UNDP funds.

In conjunction with other power regeneration projects due to start this year, UNDP estimates that an additional 180-200 mw of reliable and stable electrical power will be added to the Iraqi national grid.

This is in addition to the provision of sufficient spare parts for all plants for long-term maintenance and capacity building of staff to be able to operate and maintain the units in accordance with modern international practices.

UNDP's Ahmed also said that the basic electrical infrastructure at the nine key medical facilities in the capital have been undergoing a process of rehabilitation, which will have direct benefits on healthcare for the population in and around Baghdad.

According to UNDP, more than US $800,000 worth of spare parts were delivered at the beginning of February to a power station near the southern city of Basra, as part of a project to increase the plant's capacity and the reliability of the energy supply. After rehabilitation, the Hartha power station, 10 km from Basra, is expected to provide more than 40 mw to the national grid.

Farmers in the south have also seen benefits from the installation of small generators in their villages, which have improved their water system as they lacked sufficient water pressure for irrigation.

USAID and the MoE are working in partnership to add a total of more than 1,281 mw to the national grid by December 2005 through maintenance, rehabilitation and new generation projects. In addition, USAID completed a project last month to convert two units that produce 80 mw each to operate on heavy fuel oil instead of diesel, which is in short supply.

So far, USAID has initiated a project to rehabilitate 13 existing substations and construct 24 new ones in Baghdad. These will improve the distribution and reliability of electricity for more than 2 million Baghdad residents.

According to Hamidy, from the MoE, electricity output jumped from 4,000 mw before war to 7,000 mw at the beginning of this year. However, Iraqis have been living with less than eight hours of electricity daily since the last conflict in 2003. Most people cannot afford generators, which have doubled in price since a near total shutdown of power in January.

Before the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003, residents in the capital were receiving power 24 hours daily, but those in the south were getting the same precarious supply of a few hours per day due to neglect and discrimination.

Themes: (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Governance, (IRIN) Other




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