BAQUBA - The crisis over electricity failure grows as summer temperatures
climb and a drought plagues Iraq. It is a crisis Iran is using to help Iraqis
where the U.S. has failed.
The average house in Baquba, capital of Diyala province north of Baghdad,
has less than 12 hours of electricity a day. "I cannot exclude electricity
from my thinking; when I think of making any plans, I have to factor in the
lack of electricity," said local shopkeeper Abdullah Salim.
With temperatures soaring to 130 degrees Fahrenheit, lack of fans and air
coolers can put people's health, and businesses, at risk.
"We cannot work without electricity, because generators are not dependable,"
Salman Taha, who owns a mechanics workshop, told IPS.
"When I decided to purchase an updated model of my bakery, I did not
think of electricity," said Mahmood al-Mujamaee. "I could not operate
it at all because of the inconsistency of electricity; the bakery needs stable
power. It cost around $45,000. Now, I'm ready to sell for $20,000."
But bad as it is, the situation has been improving over the past four months
with Iran's assistance. The Bush administration and Western companies
like Bechtel have failed to deliver on promises to improve infrastructure.
"Now, the province gets power from Iran under a contract signed about
two years ago between the Iraqi government and Iran," Naseer Milmy, an
employee with the directorate-general of electricity, told IPS.
Electricity cuts are now programmed; houses get two, sometimes four hours
at given times. This is considered remarkable progress even if the voltage
of supplied electricity is often lower than the required 220-240.
"This problem should be tackled by the Iranian side," said an engineer
at the directorate-general of electricity, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
"It is supposed to build voltage regulators each 100 kilometers [60 miles]
from the border to the province to avoid loss in the power."
The Iranians are working on it. "There is another line of power from
Iran which is being worked on and should be finished within a month,"
Diyala's directorate-general of electricity said in a statement. "This
will have a great effect on the improvement of the voltage and increasing the
People have meanwhile had to buy voltage regulators to deal with this difficulty.
The price for a regulator for four amperes is $80, for 20 amperes $200, and
for 40 amperes $350. People often need to buy more than one. But even so, current
voltage is incapable of powering big machines or appliances.
Some local electricians have produced a device to increase voltage. It remains
unreliable at best. "Some houses burned down because of the extremely
high voltage from these," said a local trader. "Scientists will be
shocked to see what Iraqis are doing. It shows how much people are suffering."
A month ago, water pumping got better after a better flow of river water was
ensured. This helps people using air coolers operated by water pressure rather
than electricity. All kind of air coolers can be operated on only one or two
But the better water flow may not be here to stay. The water resources ministry
has given a drought warning. Following an unusually dry winter, water in reservoirs
and lakes is currently just under 22.07 billion cubic meters, down from the
previous year by 9.19 billion cubic meters
"The shortage of rain, which last winter was 30 percent of what it was
in previous years, has led to an obvious impact on water levels in the Tigris
and Euphrates and their tributaries," the ministry said in a press release.
Lake Hamrin in the northeast of Diyala has shrunk to nearly half its size
and could dry up within two months, ruining the livelihoods of many farmers
"The lack of water from Iran's al-Wand River and from the Darbandikhan
dam in the Kurdistan Regional Government has caused Lake Hamrin to lose nearly
80 percent of its capacity," said Mowafaq Hawar Mohammed, an expert at
the provincial water resources directorate.
The water and agriculture ministries decided in late May to allow planting
only of strategic crops such as rice, corn, sunflower, cotton, and vegetables.
The government has ordered irrigation rationing.
With all this, Iraq has been plagued with dust storms this summer. Every three
or four days the sky above Baquba is overcast with dust.
"This make things more difficult with electricity shutdowns," Luay
Ata, father of four, told IPS. "People cannot sleep on the housetops at
night where it is cooler."
Through the difficulties, people look now to Iran, not the U.S., for a better
(Inter Press Service)