Sophia's Peace Work

Monday, July 05, 2004

Questions from a Friend

So, got some questions for you (other inquiring minds want to know as well). What was the condition of water treatment effort under the Hussein rule? Has it worsened since the war/because of the war? In what ways? Was the water treatment ever good in Baghdad? The fisherman you qoted said fishing has not been good in years...What is the difference now vs. then?

It would be interesting to hear more on this subject. I know you have provided us with some figures on waste treatment, and river usage, but putting it all together with some historical information would put a frame around the picture, at least for me.

In any case, wear your sunscreen!


Good questions ... let's see. The areas around Baghdad before the 1940's was primarily used for Agriculture and irrigation which has a very LONG history in Iraq was the only major impact on the river. After the 40's, urbanization began ... The original city, located between the A'aima Bridge and the Sinik Bridge (on both sides of the river but more on the Rusafa side), started to expand. Other city centers started in Doura, New Baghdad, etc. The biggest expansion started during the era of the Republic. Sadr City (also known as Thawra and, during Saddam's time, Saddam City) was and still is the poor part of town. During the Qassim government, the old shacks and mud houses were replaced with new government built housing for the poor (Shu'ala City on the Khark side of the river was built around the same time and has similar architecture I'm told). Important changes began when Turkey put in it's dams on the upper river ... there are 13 dams in Turkey that effect both the Tigris and Euphrates. During Saddam's time, there was also some major dam building inside if Iraq. There are eight dams affecting the Tigris in Iraq. Historically the dams were for irragation, but they also were for providing electricity, flood control and storing water. Even with all the changes, the water level remained fairly constant through the 40's, 50's and 60's. But the dam building of the 70's & 80's started to have major effects. I've been told that the dam in Turkey cut the water to Iraq by half ... but I don't have detailed info on that.

The dams also cause the river to fluctuate pretty wildly ... this and the decreased water seem to have been the start of the problems with fishing on the river. Pollution with the population increases and urbanization of Iraq also had a major effect.

Before the Iraq/Iraq war (1980 to 1988) the water system in Iraq was quite good ... I've heard that Iraq had some of the best public infustructure in the Middle East at the time. But things began to deteroriate after the war ended. Once the 1st Gulf War was finished and sanctions were in place ... pollution problems on the river became entrenched as spare parts became difficult to get and repairs kept getting deferred. There was water treatment before the war at all (or atleast two) of the sewage treatment plants, but the plants were not functioning well. After the war, they were looted and have been closed while they are slowly renovated (Khark, as I've said, has opened up about 1/3 of its plant to sewage treatment just recently). And it's not just the treatment plants ... a large portion of the Baghdad drinking water network (and most assuredly the sewage network) needs to be completely replaced.

There is also illegal hook-ups, dumping, bad fishing practices, dumping and burning of trash on the river's edge, industrial run off and outflows, some nasty-ass street run-off ... you name it. Since the war, the dumping problems have certainly gotten worse. There is no enforcement. No one to say, "Hey Buddy, you can't put that shit here!" In situations like this, the Iraqis like to say, "You see, this is freedom."

But since the war, the sanctions have been ended and if and when the conflict here ends, there is a very good chance that Iraq can clean up its river and its other pollution problem. Inshallah. It will just take a loooong time and alot of hard work.

Hope that answers your basic questions.


  • This is an interesting blog ! I'm bookmarkarkimg you and will re-visit :o)

    I also have a water company site. It pretty much covers
    water company related stuff.

    Come and check it out if you get time :-)

    By Blogger Tim, at October 23, 2005 4:48 AM  

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