Joint Reconstruction Office Addresses Baghdad’s Infrastructure
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 3, 2008 A joint office that oversees the rebuilding of Baghdad’s infrastructure is making progress to address the city’s sewage, water and electricity needs, senior U.S. and Iraqi officials announced in Baghdad yesterday. Video
Citizens’ complaints about Baghdad’s worn infrastructure prompted the establishment of the Joint Reconstruction Operations Center, Tahseen Sheikhly, civilian spokesman for Operation Fardh al-Qanoon, told reporters at a Baghdad news conference. Fardh al-Qanoon, which means “enforce the law” in Arabic, is the Iraqi government’s campaign to defeat the insurgency and restore essential services to Iraq’s citizens.
Recent surge-fortified operations against insurgents have brought about security gains that “could open up new doors to Iraq to improve the essential services, and, also to start the reconstruction so that we can invite the foreign international companies to come and invest inside Iraq,” Sheikhly explained.
Although some progress has been achieved in rebuilding Baghdad’s worn infrastructure, there had been complaints of a lack of coordination of effort, Sheikhly noted. The Joint Reconstruction Operations Center’s formation, he continued, created a unity of effort among Iraqi government, coalition and other organizations in achieving infrastructure improvements in Baghdad.
Today, the center oversees a number of electricity production and distribution projects for Baghdad, as well as efforts to provide better water and sewage services, Sheikhly said.
Rebuilding Baghdad’s water distribution system and sewage network are the thorniest issues confronting the center, Sheikhly acknowledged. Maintenance of Baghdad’s infrastructure, he said, wasn’t a priority of Saddam Hussein’s regime.
“The sewage system in Baghdad has not been rehabilitated for over 30 years,” Sheikhly said. “And, we have a huge contamination in the potable water in Baghdad.”
Baghdad’s sewage and water-distribution troubles are “due to the old networks that nobody ever (took) care of,” the Iraqi spokesman said. “So, rehabilitating and renovating all those sewage networks demands time, effort, and also money.”
However, Baghdad has experienced many infrastructure improvements over the past year, Sheikhly pointed out, noting that 60 percent of Baghdad’s sewage network has been rehabilitated. In addition, about 80 percent of Baghdad’s water-distribution system has been repaired, Sheikhly reported.
Sheikhly conceded that “electricity in Baghdad is a huge problem,” noting restoration of power across the city involves “replacing thousands of wires and transmitters.” Yet, he is optimistic, he said, noting that “everyone is working” to fix Baghdad’s electric power network.
Infrastructure rebuilding efforts in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq “are a vital component to Iraq’s progress toward democracy,” Army Brig. Gen. Jeffery J. Dorko, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Gulf Region Division’s commander, said at the news conference.
The Corps of Engineers, a member of the Joint Reconstruction Operations Center, is overseeing more than 150 water treatment, sewage, electrical generation, health care, schools and transportation projects in Baghdad province, Dorko reported.
“The mission of the JROC has been to provide a long-term operations center that intensively manages Baghdad’s essential services and projects and challenges, and helps set priorities,” Dorko explained.
Over the next weeks and months, the Joint Reconstruction Operations Center will transition to operate more directly under Baghdad’s provincial council, he noted.
Dorko said an ongoing $100 million electric-power project in Baghdad’s Sadr City neighborhood is designed to provide electricity to 600,000 residents. Materials for the project are supplied by the U.S. government, while employees of the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity are doing the work. Completion of this project, he said, is expected in the July-December timeframe. And electrical substation work worth $38 million that’s slated for completion in April will supply electric power to more than 2 million residents of Baghdad province, he added.
In addition, a $2.3 million project on the Zafaraniyah sewer line and water pumping station that’s scheduled for completion in June will reduce health hazards for more than 115,000 area residents, Dorko said.
“We’re making significant headway,” Dorko said, noting there are many more ongoing projects to repair the electric, sewer and water systems in and around Baghdad.
“I’m confident that by continuing to work with our Iraqi partners on reconstruction and focusing on essential services projects, we can help repair Iraq’s infrastructure and help build a brighter future for Iraq,” Dorko said.