'Measles Chart' Shows Reconstruction Progress in Iraq
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, May 6, 2006 Coalition officials call it the "measles chart" -- a map of Iraq showing all the planned, in-progress and completed infrastructure projects that makes the country look like it has developed a case of the measles.
Green is good on the chart. That indicates completed projects, and most of the dots, triangles, squares and diamonds on the map are green. Yellow means the projects are started, and there is a scattering of those around the country. Red means "planned - not started," and there are some of those - mostly in Anbar province and in eastern and western Baghdad.
"Since March 2003, 11,600 construction projects have been started and 9,340 projects valued at $9.3 billion have been completed," said Kathye A. Johnson, director of reconstruction for the Gulf Region Division of the Army Corps of Engineers. "Rebuilding the infrastructure is helping the emergence of democracy and establishing the foundation for a strong economy."
Johnson spoke during a news conference here today. Her division's projects range from hospitals and schools to power plants and water and sewage treatment facilities. The goal is to provide reliable, essential services to the Iraqi people, Johnson said. U.S. taxpayers have paid for the projects she oversees. Other U.S. organizations - most notably the U.S. Agency for International Development - also are helping rebuild the Iraqi infrastructure.
From the beginning, the U.S. contribution was designed to jumpstart the infrastructure reconstruction program, she said. "To truly meet the infrastructure needs of this country, donor nations, private sector organizations and the government of Iraq will all need to work together to provide additional resources," she said.
And Iraq will need more resources. The World Bank, the United Nations and other organizations said Iraq needs $55 billion more to repair the infrastructure neglected during Saddam Hussein's rule.
The United States is not going to provide that money, Johnson said. "Our efforts go beyond actual bricks and mortar reconstruction," she said. The Gulf Region Division is training Iraqis how to care for projects once they are finished. This capacity development is an integral component in the effort to revitalize Iraq's infrastructure, Johnson said.
"Our job is to provide quality, responsive full-spectrum engineering services in support of military and civil construction," Johnson said. "We also provide logistical services and aggressively assist the government of Iraq in assuming full responsibility for national reconstruction."
As of May 1, the division has 3,614 infrastructure projects planned, representing $11.3 billion. Another 3,206 projects have started for $10.1 billion. Nearly 2,600 projects have been completed for about $6 billion.
And it is working, she said. "Despite 25 years of neglect and a costly insurgency, Iraq's infrastructure is bouncing back and U.S. assistance is having a real impact on the lives of the Iraqi people," she said. In schools alone, U.S. funding has refurbished 831 schools. "We've taken children out of 'mud schools' and put them in modern. Clean buildings conducive to learning," Johnson said.
The projects have added 1,400 megawatts of electricity to the national grid, and the engineers have overseen 137 distribution projects. As the hot summer months approach, electricity is a concern. "The availability of electricity is governed not only by planned and unplanned maintenance, but also interdictions," Johnson said. "The best plans we have and targets we put in place are always subject to events of the day."
If terrorists don't blow up transmission lines, distribution nodes and power generating plants, there should be enough power to give all residents of Iraq 12 hours of electricity per day, officials said.
The projects have added almost 1.2 million cubic meters of water per day to the system, which benefits almost 6 million Iraqis. All told, the projects provide 8.4 million Iraqis with potable drinking water.
They've completed 33 sewer projects, built 67 fire stations and 303 police stations. They have completed eight airport projects, all now FAA certified. They have completed four port projects and put in place an advanced first responder network system that covers 16 million Iraqis living in 14 provinces.
Iraq pumps about 2.5 million barrels of oil to the world each day. The division is funding projects that will boost that output to 3 million barrels per day.
Security remains a huge challenge to reconstruction in Iraq. Johnson said the cost of security varies by project type, and the area the project is in. "Our calculated average is around 18 to 22 percent of the reconstruction costs have gone to security," she said.
About 2,500 U.S. military personnel, U.S. government civilians, contractors and Iraqi nationals work at the division. "We are making a tangible difference," Johnson said. "Our work here is challenging and difficult, but it is vital to Iraq's progress toward democracy."