STAGNANT. Treatment plants are structurally sound but short of power and chemicals.
(Photo courtesy of DOD)

By most accounts, the coalition forces succeeded in changing the Iraqi regime without significant damage to the country’s infrastructure. But that positive news was quickly counterbalanced by the sobering realization that since 1991, technicians have held much of the nation together with chewing gum and baling wire.

United Nations sanctions put in place after the first Gulf War effectively froze development in time. No-fly rules grounded the airlines. Spare parts for powerplants, wastewater and water treatment systems, hospitals and schools were either too expensive or unavailable. Iraqi engineers learned to make do with little more than their own ingenuity.

A dozen years of neglect and underfunding damaged the infrastructure much more than 42 days of hostilities. As temperatures rise in Baghdad’s streets this summer, patience is wearing thin. Violent protests have hit American troops in Baghdad, Fallujah and elsewhere. Many Iraqis are using the power they now have to express frustration about the power they don’t have, as well as the water and sewer service and medical care. Each sector has its own distinct characteristics, but all are interrelated. Security remains the top priority.

Pumping up oil production
In oil and power, Iraq’s de facto oil minister Thamer Ghadban says that as of June 2, Iraq was producing about 750,000 barrels per day of crude oil. He hopes to double that rate by mid-June, which would be close to the pre-war rate of 1.7 million bbl/day, but well short of the 1988 total of 3 million bbl/day.

Task Force Restore Iraqi Oil, a joint venture between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Houston-based Halliburton unit Kellogg, Brown and Root, continues to grapple with a collapsed communication system and persistent looting. In Kirkuk in the north, the lack of security hinders damage assessment. Vandals steal copper wire and controls and puncture pipelines to siphon off petroleum. Recovery is also hampered by war damage to pumping stations such as the one at Haditha.

Three main refineries–at Basra, Doura and Beiji–are in production, but unable to export fuel oil products. This prolongs a gasoline shortage. An 850,000-liter-per-day reserve gasoline pipeline from Baghdad to An Najaf is open, but coalition forces are still tied up pulling security duty from the drilling rig to the gas pump.

Electricity is only running at 65% of pre-war levels in Baghdad. As of June 1, repairs were complete on the 400-kv transmission ring around the city, providing an additional 300-500 Mw to the national grid. Coalition forces reported increased power production at stations in An Najaf, As Samawah and Al Hallah.

Power and water intertwined
Power shortfalls feed water and wastewater treatment problems. Many wastewater treatment plants are bypassing effluent straight into the rivers. That water treatment plants are functioning at all is "largely thanks to the resourcefulness of Iraqi engineers and maintenance people, who are making do with few if any spare parts as well as insufficient power," says John Kluesener, manager of the water, wastewater and irrigation effort for San Francisco-based Bechtel National Inc. Bechtel is heading the U.S. Agency for International Development rebuilding program.

After security, "Water and sanitation are the major problem facing Iraq," says Ahuma Adodoadji, director of CARE’s emergency services group. He is worried about shortages of chlorine and alum. "If there is a water-related epidemic this summer, it will be difficult to control with the problem in medical facilities."

There are 51 confirmed cases of cholera in Basra, where looters remain a problem. Things are worse in Baghdad, where the International Red Cross repaired one pumping station, only to have thieves return for a second haul.

Bechtel has been helping USAID establish repair priorities. The company hopes to have the wastewater treatment plants in 75% of the country north of As Samawah operating to capacity within three months. In the south, more effort will go toward operating efficiency of water treatment plants, says Kluesener.

Bechtel has identified $40 million worth of first-tier projects already, with a completion target of three to six months. Water treatment plant and wastewater treatment pumping station upgrades could take up to a year, paving the way for system repair and expansion and attention to operations and maintenance. As in the power sector, the lack of security and adequate communications is a major obstacle.

Educational, medical neglect
In the education and medical sectors, again the problem is long-term neglect. In April USAID gave $1-million contract awards each to Creative Associates International Inc., Washington, D.C., and the United Nations Children’s Fund for back-to-school efforts. The military has taken on several dozen school restoration projects throughout the country, as well as water, power and cleanup tasks at a number of hospitals.

USAID awarded Cambridge, Mass.-based Abt Associates Inc. a contract, worth between $10 million and $43.8 million, to support the new Ministry of Health. UNICEF received an $8-million grant for health, water and sanitation services. The World Health Organization will spend a $10-million stipend to monitor diseases, rehabilitate health facilities and train health-care providers.

Transportation infrastructure is perhaps in the best shape of all. One reason may be that Saddam Hussein allocated ample funding over the past two decades for roads and bridges. He needed to move troops and equipment around as he waged war against Iraq and Kuwait. Now that Chicago-based Great Lakes Dredging & Dock Co. has removed 1 million cu yd of spoil, the Umm Qasr channel is dredged to 11 m. Work is under way to dredge shipping lanes to 14 m. Grain silos are being cleaned and refurbished under a $4.8-million contract to Seattle-based Stevedoring Services of America. Food deliveries have already begun.

Airport set to open
The Baghdad International Airport is set to open June 15, after repairs by the U.S. Army 94th Engineer Battalion. Layla Hussen Kariem, a civil engineer who had been director of public works for the facility before the war (see story, p. 19) returned to work. She brought with her civil, electrical and mechanical engineers, firefighters, mechanics, electricians, plumbers and garbage truck drivers. All had worked at the airport. While plans and specifications for the airport exist, there were no as-built drawings. The former employees "are living, breathing as-built drawings," says Lt. Col. Paul Grosskruger, battalion commander.

In keeping with one of its USAID directives, Bechtel hired an Iraqi firm, Al-Bunnia Trading Co., to complete an overpass over Highway 10, clearing the way for an expected 3,000 trucks to move humanitarian aid from Jordan. Bechtel expects to award contracts on seven other key bridge projects within weeks.

Still, disproving the notion that Americans are better at waging war than peace is an uphill slog. "I don’t think the Pentagon planners really had a game plan in place for the postwar program," says one non-government official, requesting anonymity. "We NGOs are used to working in these situations, but there’s no central government control and it’s a new role for the military and companies like Bechtel. It will take time. Let’s give it a couple of weeks. Things should start to show some improvement."