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[casi] Article from the Baghdad Bulletin

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Bert Gedin thought you might be interested in the following article, published
on the Baghdad Bulletin[1] website.They sent the following message:

" Dear Suzy & List, This isn't the article requested, but may be of interest.
BG. "
The Baghdad Bulletin respects your privacy and has not stored your email
Baghdad Bulletin - Independent news from Iraq[2]
Published date: 10/6/2003
Getting back on the grid
By: David Enders (Bulletin Staff)
After security, one of the most common complaints of postwar Baghdad residents
has been unreliable electricity.
"Why is the electricity only on eight hours a day?" one resident asked last
week. "In 1991, Saddam had the electricity on sooner than this, and all the
power stations were bombed."
A myriad of reasons exist for the delay in returning Baghdad to its prewar
capacity, when residential areas generally received 20 hours of electricity
each day. Power lines were damaged by coalition bombing and the subsequent
looting further damaged lines and generation and distribution stations.
The American effort to restore electricity in Baghdad began on April 12, three
days after troops entered the city. Baghdad received enough power last week to
satisfy current demand - which will rise with the temperature - for up to 14
hours a day. That has left some questioning how concerted the American effort
really is, pointing out that none of the power stations had been bombed during
the invasion.
"In 1991, the damage was much greater because the damage was concentrated not
only on the substations but the power stations," said Adnan Wadi Bashir, who
worked as a power generation and transmission engineer for the government for
24 years. "Most of the attacks were on the transmission lines, and the repair
of these is much easier. We restored part of the power in 1991 within six
weeks of the ceasefire and we supplied the whole Iraqi system without any
shortage in five months. The job now could have been finished within a month"
of April 12.
Starting literally from scratch, engineers in 1991 managed to generate about
1000 MW of power six weeks after the war ended, Bashir said. Last week, nearly
eight weeks after the American effort began, about 3450 MW were available
countrywide, 1000 MW less than were available before the invasion .
An insurmountable task
US Bgdr. Gen. Steven Hawkins is in charge of the campaign to repair the city's
power. When his mission is fulfilled, he will officially turn over control of
the job to Peter Gibson, a US civilian from the Office of the Coalition
Provisional Authority and Karim Hassan, a prewar official in the Electrical
Ministry who has been selected by Gibson as the Iraqi liaison.
"We'll have 16 hours by one July," Hawkins said during a recent media trip to
the Baghdad South power plant.
The plant is a hodgepodge of cobbled together equipment, mostly obsolete, and
underscores the most serious problem in Iraq's electrical infrastructure -
that supply for a long time has been unable to meet demand. Last summer's peak
demand countrywide was 6600 MW. Most of the available power was diverted to
Baghdad, leaving the rest of the country with about 12 hours per day.
As journalists toured the plant, an engineer pulled one away to ask what the
general was discussing.
"We've heard from some of the commanders that we are getting new generators.
We need new generators. This is a very reduced megawatt facility," the man
Bashir estimated that even if work began now on new power stations, it would
take at least 14 months to ensure there would be enough power generation to
meet countrywide demand 24 hours a day, repairs that may be necessary to the
existing generators notwithstanding. Gibson agreed with that assessment.
"At least 5800 MW is needed," Bashir said, noting that demand would be about
1000 MW more than that were it not for all the buildings destroyed in the
Though engineers on the grid were aware of the deterioration of Iraq's power
system before the war, a number of rumors circulated throughout the populace
of Iraq to explain why Baghdad did not receive power all day long. One of the
most popular was that Saddam sold electricity to Jordan and Turkey.
"How would we sell the power? There is no line," Bashir said, adding that the
Iraqi border checkpoint at Trabil actually received electricity from Jordan.
"There was one day power ran from Iraq to Turkey, but they never reached an
agreement with negotiations on the tariff."
In the meantime
Adil Mahdi, the manager of the National Dispatch Center in New Baghdad,
disagreed with Bashir's assessment the job of repairing power lines was taking
too long.
"In my opinion it is the same amount of damage and not less than 1991 at all.
The damage this time is to the 400 kV network, 90 percent to 95 percent of the
network has been affected," Madhi said, referring to the "supergrid" that
makes up the backbone of the national power grid. From the 400 kV line, the
power is moved from substations to networks with a smaller capacity.
Mahdi said the damage to power infrastructure caused by looting has
exacerbated the problem of fixing the lines. The dispatch center was no
"All the looting happened within two days, the nights of the ninth and tenth
of April. The American troops were entering Baghdad. A tank opened the door of
the dispatch center and a soldier told the people 'Take your share of Iraqi
oil from here,'" Mahdi said. "The looting took place under the gaze of the
American Army. The dispatch center was looted, there were fifteen homes on
site, for the engineers that were also looted. Even our clothes were taken.
Computers, chairs, carpets, air conditioning units."
Prior to the war, Madhi's office controlled the power distribution for the
whole of Iraq, connecting the three rings - north, south and central - of the
400 kV line. Last week, the north ring had been reconnected to the dispatch
station, but there was still little coordination. Areas in the north and south
that are connected to the grid have been receiving power for as much as 22
hours a day.
"If all governorates cooperate with me and 40 percent to 45 percent of the
total system is used by Baghdad, we could provide 16 hours countrywide," Hamid
said. "There is a US commander for each governorate - we must negotiate with
them. Once a link has been made between the US Army and local authorities,
people will follow and obey.
"Before the war, there was a shortage of power, and we are hoping to return to
this state. Many lines are still under investigation, we are looking into
contracting private business, we are looking at Iraqi companies, but the whole
picture is unclear. On one line, more than 20 towers collapsed each at 30 to
50 tons in weight."
Contrary to rumors US forces have refused offers for help from Iraqi
engineers, Madhi has received little aid.
"Bechtel gave us a questionnaire, looked around and took notes. We are still
waiting for action. They came on May 27, and visited some other power
stations. We received some small equipment from them and they asked for cost
estimates to pay the line repair workers. We are hoping for a good response
from them in the future," he said.
Attempts to reach Bechtel spokespersons for comment were unsuccessful.
Poor wages and a lack of security have also been a problem.
"There is continuous looting and vandalisation of the line. The US forces are
the biggest forces in the world. This force has the ability to support us in a
more active way than they are doing now.
"We can't concentrate on our work, we had 80 to 100 of our cars looted within
one week."
Security is not the only problem. Workers repairing the line, who prior to the
war received salaries of around $80 US each month, have so far only received
emergency payments of $20 US and bonuses of $30 US. Hawkins said he expected a
salary payment to be made to workers in mid-June, but that will still be less
than prewar levels.
"Because the wages are low, this weakens the relationship between employer and
employee, and affects the quality of the job," Madhi said. "I have no
financial or administrative authority anymore."
Ripple effects
Al-Mansur Children's Hospital has received power from the national grid nearly
24 hours a day for about two weeks. Hospitals, water treatment facilities and
sewerage plants have been given top priority in electrical distribution.
"We have a generator for emergencies," said Khassem Issa, a doctor at the
hospital. "The power usually goes off for about two hours a day."
Issa said the generator is adequate for emergency treatment, but does not
provide enough power to run the hospital's elevators, air conditioning or
other heavy machines.
"The problem is not how many hours, it is equipment we can't run," he said.
Though the hospital has been able to operate, power outages at the company
that supplies it with compressed oxygen have caused dangerous shortages.
"Three times we have had crises with oxygen and patients have died," said
Eaman Tariq Al-Jabory, another doctor at the hospital.
There are other health concerns related to power shortages in residential
"We have 260 patients (in the hospital). One hundred and fifty will be
children with gastroenteritis," Al-Jabory said, attributing a large part of
the problem to inadequately stored food and poor water quality in some Baghdad
neighborhoods. "The water is not good because of no electricity."
The World Health Organisation administers 33 hospital in Baghdad.
"All of the hospitals in Baghdad are using generators," said WHO medical
officer Muiz Al-Amin. "Now the main power is improving, it is only off a few
hours a day. Only six hours it is cut."
The WHO is preparing for a spike in typhoid and cholera cases as summer heat
sets in.
"You have fever, vomiting. The water supply is not good," Al-Amin said.
But perhaps most serious is the potential a lack of electricity in the summer
has for fueling sentiment against occupying forces.
"The people, if there is the power, will stay home and watch TV and play
Playstation. How will they act if there is no power? They will throw stones at
the Americans," Bashir said.
Published date: 10/6/2003
Author: David Enders (Bulletin Staff)

 Baghdad Bulletin 2003


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