Sophia's Peace Work

Saturday, June 12, 2004

The CPA’s Environmental Aftermath

Dr. Khammo Awshalim is going back to the UK. A former Agriculture professor with the Universities in Baghdad and Basra, he has been working for over a year for the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) as an advisor to the new Ministry of Agriculture. He helped develop numerous programs and projects to increase agriculture production, provide assistance to farmers, and restore the date palms, the national symbol of Iraq. Nearly all have come to naught and Dr. Awshalim is fed up and leaving the land of his birth to return to his adopted country where he lived for 14 years before returning to Iraq after the war to help with the reconstruction.

Dr. Awshalim rubbed his fingers together. “No money.” They seem to have plenty of money for security, he complained. Hundreds of thousands are being spent on concrete blast walls, armored vehicles, and security guards. “Tell me,” he said, “When the Americans finally leave, what will we do with all these concrete blast walls? Of what help will they be to the Iraqis?” For months now, Dr. Awshalim has been sending out email missives addressing these and many other issues that point to a lack of real reconstruction, huge wastes in spending and dubious environmental practices.

I had met Dr. Awshalim to speak to him about the huge trash dump that is growing on the banks of the Tigris River outside the walls of the Green Zone, the area housing the CPA and its workers in the center of Baghdad. He showed me his pictures of the area and gave me a tour to the outer edge of the dump. The area between the river and the outer blast walls of the Green Zone has become a wasteland of demolition materials, torn up trees (cleared from the extensive orchards surrounding the Palace to make room for the many trailer parks set up to house CPA workers), and ordinary garbage generated for the thousands of people living and working in the Zone. Rather than truck these items to the city garbage dumps, KBR and the other contractors working inside the Zone, with a quiet nod from the CPA, have been dumping them along the river’s edge in Central Baghdad. Such an action, in many other major cities, would have landed them in jail after the first dump truck load.

Dr. Awshalim has raised this and other issues with the CPA, the US Environmental Protection Agency, the Iraqi Ministries, yet no one seems to have the power or the will to stop these kinds of activities. “Somebody must listen to reason before it is too late,” he wrote in one of his many emails to the CPA (this one on the burning and destruction of the landscape in Radhwaniya, near the Baghdad Airport), “With action like this we are losing friends very fast and gaining enemies even faster.”

Dr. Awshalim has finally gotten tired of hitting brick walls. He’s going home.

Pictures of the Green Zone Dump Yard

The Palace Orchard and Grounds being clears for CPA showers and trailers

Another interesting development ... Washington Apples in Iraq courtesy of KBR ... apparently Iraq Apples aren't good enough


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