As Nesreen Berwari, Minister of Municipalities and Public Works said, "we have a long way to go and it will be very challenging indeed, but the important thing is to begin and this we have done!"
The Minister of Municipalities and Public Works (MMPW) in association with the Water Sector of the Project and Contracting Office (PCO) have undertaken the mission to contribute to the development of the new Iraq by improving the water and sanitation services. The main objective of MMPW is to bring the water and sanitation services to an acceptable level and to increase the coverage. The access to safe potable water and the availability of properly operated sewage services impact directly on the health of the Iraqi people. It has been estimated that 40% of the children attending health centers suffer from gastrointestinal diseases due to lack of access to safe drinking water.
The water and sanitation infrastructure plays a critical role in the reconstruction effort carried out by Iraq. In 2003, the US Congress established specific objectives for providing access to potable water and sewerage coverage to the people of Iraq, allocating a budget of $4.3 billion to this sector alone. By the end of 2004, however, the increased surge of violence forced Congress to redirect portions of sector funding to the security and justice, thereby drastically reducing the budget allocated for water and sanitation.
Despite the funding cuts, the Water Sector has critical water, wastewater, and water resource infrastructure underway. To date, the sector has successfully transitioned from the initial design and planning phases, to the project execution and transitioning to Iraqis phases. The sector continues to work closely and integrate resources with all affected stakeholders. These include, but are not limited, to the Iraq Project and Contracting Office (PCO), Iraq Reconstruction Management Office (IRMO), USAID, Major Subordinate Commands (MSCs), Gulf Region Division (GRD), MMPW, the Ministry of Water Resources (MWR), and the Amanat of Baghdad. This integration effort ensures that the sector's efforts are leveraged to achieve the goals and objectives of the US Mission in Iraq.
Progress is being made on Public Works projects throughout Iraq. Representative projects include:
Nasiriyah Water Supply - This $172 M project involves construction of new treatment works and 70 km of pipeline to supply water that will relieve water shortages to one million people.
Basrah Sewerage - This $53 M project involves cleaning the existing sewer, completing partially built pump stations, adding missing pipelines between drainage areas, connecting three new drainage areas to the main sewer, and replacing inlet works at the main treatment facility.
Baghdad Wathba and Whada Water Treatment Plant Rehabilitations - This project is refurbishment of two existing treatment works valued at $14M for improving water quality and increasing output.
Water Resource projects are commencing construction. Representative projects include:
Mosul Dam - This dam project is a top priority for the MWR due to the potential risk of dam failure. The dam has significant erosion and seepage problems in its foundation. The MWR relied on a substantial grouting program that lasted for years with no clear results of improved dam safety or reduced risk of dam failure. A top priority since July 2004 was to assess the grouting and emergency planning as well as to develop/recommend a permanent solution for the dam. A panel of experts of world-class stature was formed to do the study.
Basrah Sweetwater Canal - The canal is 240km long, carrying raw water from Al-Gharraf River to Basrah. It has serious problems due to the high gypsum content in some of its sections. This is causing embankment failure which in turn reduces the amount of water delivered through the canal. There are other serious problems related to lack of power to operate the canal's two pump stations, availability of spare parts and the MWR ability to maintain and operate the canal.
Nasiriyah Drainage Pumping Station - This is the biggest pumping station in the Middle East. It consists of 12 pumps; the capacity of each is 20m3/sec. It is located on the Main Outfall Drain (M.O.D) at the crossing of the M.O.D with the Euphrates River. Its main function is to pump the drainage water underneath the Euphrates. It is partly built. Companies from Austria, Brazil, and Russia had been involved in the construction. What make this complicated are the specifics and characteristics of the pumps. Current project works contains significant civil, earth, pipe/mechanical and electrical works. The irrigation projects in central and southern Iraq depend largely on successful completion of this project.
The critical capacity development initiatives are well underway to assure a smooth and crisp handover to the Iraqis. Key components include:
Baseline Service Assessment - Perform broad assessment of water and sewerage service in Iraq to serve as a platform for future master planning efforts and performance measurements by MMPW.
O&M Planning and Budgeting Structure - Develop a sustainable O&M organization with realistic identification of resource needs and budgets.
Project Management - Work with the Strategic Management Office (SMO) of MMPW and project management staff in selected directorates to strengthen the Ministry's internal capability for management and oversight of infrastructure projects.
Planning and Design - Work with MMPW managers and engineering staff to strengthen capabilities for development of projects including the standardization of design processes.
Finance and Administration - Work with MMPW managers and staff to strengthen the financial and administrative capabilities in the areas related to implementation and ongoing management of infrastructure facilities.
Water Quality - Work with managers and staff from MMPW and eight selected directorates to strengthen capabilities in the area of water quality monitoring and reporting.
Communications and Public Awareness Program - Work with MMPW management and staff to strengthen organizational unit for effective transition.
In conclusion, Minister Berwari says it best. "Iraq has extensive facilities and systems that form a solid foundation on which to rebuild and reinvigorate a country that can rapidly advance itself. But more importantly, the strongest component of Iraq's foundation is its people - educated, skilled, and hardworking. Support them and work with them to build a new and better Iraq that will become a major player and contributor to the world community."