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Iraq’s Aging Infrastructure Improving Slowly, Steadily

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 6, 2007 – Iraq’s aging infrastructure, which suffered decades of neglect under Saddam Hussein’s rule, is being upgraded sporadically in “fits and starts,” a Joint Staff official said today. (Video)

Coalition efforts to improve Iraq’s power grid, water and oil systems are hampered by the infrastructure’s deteriorating 1960s technology, Army Maj. Gen. Richard Sherlock, an operations specialist on the Joint Staff, said during a conference call.

“If Iraq was a used car, Saddam got rid of it at the right time,” Sherlock said. “It was ready to fall apart.”

During Saddam’s rule, the amount of electrical output was capped at a low megawatt-per-day level, and anything that put additional strain on the grid was illegal, the general said.

“Immediately after Saddam fell, virtually every apartment balcony of every apartment building in Baghdad sprouted a satellite dish, so the demand (for electricity) has more than doubled since the fall of Saddam,” Sherlock said.

Provinces able to produce more than their neighbors are further complicating efforts to reenergize the country by being reticent to share resources, the general said.

“The Ministry of Electricity is working … (so) they do share power among different provinces, which creates a more stable electric grid,” said Sherlock, who added that encouraging cooperation across provinces is a “very complex issue.”

Similar to the strains on Iraq’s electrical grid, coalition authorities are having difficulty meeting excessive demands on the country’s oil, water and sewage infrastructure. “The demand is outstripping the supply,” Sherlock said.

The general described upgrades to the infrastructure as a “highly technical solution,” which requires operators to make Iraq’s old equipment compatible with technology that has emerged over the past three decades.

“At the same time you have a variety of groups that are trying to tap into the water lines to get water for their families, insurgents that are trying to tap into the water lines to try and break it, or electric lines or oil lines,” Sherlock said. “In some cases you go two steps forward, one step back.”

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