Fourth Installment of "Where Things Stand" in Iraq

A final note: Iraq's Ministry of Electricity has been working with neighboring countries to improve the productivity and reliability of its services. For example, the German company Siemens and Syria's Ministry of Electricity have begun installing three power plants in Syria as part of a new electric grid project to serve Iraq. These plants are expected to be operating in 2006.

Facts & Figures: Average Amount of Electricity Generated (Megawatts):

Pre-War (Estimates):

Nationwide: 3,958

Baghdad: 2,500

January 2005:

Nationwide: 3,289

Baghdad: 985

September 2005:

Nationwide: 4,247

Baghdad: NA (last available April 2005: 854)

Source: Brookings Institution, Iraq Index.

Oil Production:

Crude production (millions of barrels/day)

Pre-War: 2.5

September 2005: 2.10

Crude export (millions of barrels/day)

Pre-War: 1.7-2.5

September 2005: 1.38


North: Better

Central: Worse

South: Same or Worse

We said it last year, but it's worth repeating: Sewage treatment and clean water matter. It may seem obvious -- but of course those of us who take such things for granted may need a reminder of just how vital these quality-of-life indicators are for Iraqis.

We continue to find anecdotal horror stories of "sewage and garbage everywhere," as one resident in Baghdad's Al-Ra'ay district put it. There are children with stomach ailments and skin diseases caused by fouled water in Al Khahlaa, in the south; children at the Alshid Abdul Wahid Elementary School who cannot drink the water or use the bathrooms; and, most poignant of all, the scene our reporters found at a hospital in Baghdad's Sadr City. Here an ambulance had to plow through sewage on its way in and out, and the hospital staff discovered sewage coursing through hospital rooms, and then faced the terrible choice of whether to clean those rooms slowly and inefficiently, or to pump the sewage directly to the city streets. Ultimately hospital administrators and doctors explained their plight to people in the neighborhood; those neighbors understood, and accepted the decision to pump the filth out -- though that meant that sewage soon coursed along their streets. In many parts of the country people have resorted to buying bottled water -- or even Pepsi -- for their children.

And yet -- despite security conditions that have stalled projects and drastically increased costs, there has been progress during the past year in terms of water and sanitation infrastructure. Available potable water has increased since 2003 by 1.58 million cubic meters per day as a result of U.S.-funded projects. Additionally, Iraqi sewage treatment capacity has increased since 2003 by approximately 890,000 cubic meters per day, providing as many as 3.2 million Iraqis with a standard level of service because of U.S.-funded sanitary sewage projects.

The main station that pumps water to Baghdad has been attacked twice in recent months; contractors must now deal with saboteurs and thieves who have shot or drilled holes into the country's water or sewage pipelines. As a result, water pressure drops, and supplies are contaminated -- leading to much more work, and of course more expenditures. By now it is clear that the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority's April 2004 objective of providing potable water to 90 percent of Iraq's population was unrealistic -- U.S. officials have acknowledged as much.

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