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Reconstruction Firms Hear Plan for Rebuilding Southern Iraq

By Bill Roberts
Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Sept. 7, 2004 – Nearly 200 Iraqi and international construction contractors heard Sept. 4 how reconstruction efforts in the country's southern region will soon quicken, providing a renewed infrastructure and additional jobs.

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Nearly 200 Iraqi and international construction contractors gathered at Basra International Airport in Iraq on Sept. 4 to hear how reconstruction efforts in the country's southern region will soon quicken, providing a renewed infrastructure and additional jobs. Photo by Bill Roberts
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The demands and opportunities that come from the planned massive surge in reconstructing the south served as the keynote of the region's first reconstruction forum at the Basra International Airport.

"This is a good opportunity for me and my company to meet the people we hope to be working with in rebuilding southern Iraq," said a branch manager with a Basra-based general contracting and engineering firm. "It is important for us to get to know what kind of work is coming and find business for general contracting and engineering workers." His name is not used in this story as a personal security measure.

The conference provided contractors an overview of the $18.4 billion Iraqi Reconstruction Relief Program, outlining specific programs in each of the area's nine provinces and provided a point of contact for each of the nearly 500 planned projects for the region.

While major capital improvement projects like railroads, upgraded port facilities and additional road and bridge construction topped the list for bettering transportation across the desert south region, small local projects also made the discussion during the afternoon conference.

"This is a two-prong effort; we have to make the major capital improvements and start many smaller local projects to show visible progress as quickly as possible," said Col. Roger Gerber, commander of the Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region South District. "It is important that power plants be renovated and water treatment facilities be built to boost the economy and quality of life for the Iraqi people, but school and hospital renovations and water distribution systems are also important steps in demonstrating progress to the Iraqi people and putting them back to work quickly.

"These smaller projects are not as expensive, but are just as important," he said.

The more than 10 new medical clinics, 400 renovated schools and new police stations planned for the region are slated for construction before the end of the year; each is aimed at improving the aging infrastructure of southern Iraq and adding thousands of jobs across the region.

"We are proud of your presence today, and I express my gratitude for your vision and commitment to revitalizing Iraq," said Italian Brig. Gen. Leonardo di Marco, deputy commander of the Multinational Division South-East. "We hope there will be many more of these industry forums with the aim of stimulating business in southern Iraq."

More than 100,000 Iraqi engineers and laborers are currently employed across Iraqi, rebuilding the nation's dilapidated infrastructure. "More projects are starting every day, and more of Iraq will begin to see a difference as these projects come on line," said Brig. Gen Thomas Bostick, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Division, a predominantly civilian organization charged with rebuilding Iraq. "Iraqi and multinational firms began 285 new projects during the first week of September, and more than a thousand are scheduled to be started in the next 90 days."

(Bill Roberts is assigned to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Gulf Region Division.)

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Related Sites:
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Division

Click photo for screen-resolution imageAn Iraqi laborer applies sealant to a concrete structure at the Basra Sewage Treatment Plant in southern Iraq. The project, which is scheduled for completion later this month, will provide sewage treatment for Iraq's Basra International Airport. About two dozen Iraqis have worked on this project over the past four months. (Photo by Bill Roberts)  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageIraqi employees stack rebar for the final phase of construction at the Basra Water Treatment Plant in Southern Iraq. About two dozen Iraqi laborers have worked on the $1.3 million project over the past four months. (Photo by Bill Roberts)  
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