Environment

Soldiers Work to Create a More Environmentally Friendly Iraq

| by US Department of Defense

By Ronald A. Reeves
Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, July 17, 2009 – Sewer projects and other capacity-building
projects managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region
Division are positively affecting the environment in Iraq, said the
commander of the corps’ Gulf Region Central District here.

For example, solar-powered street lights installed in Fallujah use the
sun’s renewable energy, balancing the needs of the environment and
communities by providing power, conserving natural resources for other
uses, and improving air quality through reduced air emissions, Army
Col. Ronald N. Light explained.

Environmental
conservation was not practiced during Saddam Hussein’s regime, Light
said, but he’s seen progress during his yearlong command.

He
has visited more than 200 project sites throughout Baghdad and Anbar
provinces -- trips that provided him with insight about the Iraqi
situation, he said.

“Many Iraqis with whom I’ve interfaced
have indicated that they were in survival mode,” he said. “When all
you’re worried about is feeding your family and whether they have a
roof over their head, it’s hard to get excited about other issues.

“As
the Iraqi security situation improves and they’re able to focus on
those kinds of things, I fully expect that they will embrace a greater
environmental ethic as time goes on,” he continued. “No one wants to
live in an environment that is strewn with trash, an environment where
children walk in open sewer drainage ditches, or an environment where
you have to question the purity of your water or air.”

To that
end, projects built in partnership with the Iraqi government, the U.S.
government and Gulf Region Division are providing essential services
that many Americans take for granted, such as clean water and sewage
removal.

An example of this is the Sadr City water treatment
plant, now providing 200,000 Sadr City residents with clean, potable
water. The three-year, $65-million endeavor supplies water to 27
sectors in Sadr City. The facility provides water at a rate of 4,000
cubic meters per hour.

Also completed is the restoration of the Khark water treatment plant north of Taji, Light said.

“That treatment plant contributes 43 percent of the potable water to Baghdad,” he said.

Three
neighborhoods, or “mahallas,” in southern Baghdad have received about
41 miles of water mains, ranging from 4- to 12-inch pipe. Army Maj.
Robert Nash, who served with the corps when the project was under way,
said Doura residents appreciated the corps’ efforts.

“There
has likewise been a dearth of potable water supply networks in both
Baghdad and elsewhere,” Light said. “The problem has been particularly
acute in Baghdad; we’ve addressed that, and helped double the number of
people on potable water systems throughout Iraq.”

Gulf Region
Division sewer projects include a $30 million sewer project in Kamaliya
where about 36 miles of sewer pipe and 10 pump stations were installed.

In partnership with the Iraqi government, the division is
completing other sewer-improvement projects throughout Central District
in Doura, Adhamiyah, Mansour, New Ubaydi and Fallujah.

Begun
in 2004 and about 80 percent complete, the Fallujah wastewater
treatment plant’s revised design provides for treatment of 40,000 cubic
meters per day, projected to serve 200,000 residents. The project will
discharge disinfected water into the Euphrates River where residents
downstream take their drinking water. The design allows for future
expansion as the Iraqi government grows its infrastructure.

“That
is a huge, huge undertaking given the age of the cities in Iraq,” Light
said. “We’ve gone into Baghdad and Fallujah and retrofitted, in very
tight quarters, those cities with sewer systems. So, that’s been a
great win.”

An often-overlooked component, Light said, is
waste management. He said the division’s contributions to that are
landfills, both on forward operating bases and in Baghdad. In Rusafa,
northeast of Baghdad, the division will build a sanitary landfill.

“This
isn’t a sanitary landfill you’d see in the temperate regions of the
U.S.,” Light said. “It is designed for this very arid climate. We’ve
also built incinerators to more effectively deal with solid waste,
medical waste, biological waste and routine waste.”

Light said the Army Corps of Engineers and the Iraqi government are committed to improving conditions throughout Iraq.

“In
everything we’ve done, whether it’s a road project, school project, or
police station, there’s been some environmental component somehow,”
Light said. “As we close out forward operating bases, post camps, and
stations we’ve established, we will certainly leave them as clean as or
cleaner than when we arrived.”

As Iraq continues to grow as a
secure and stable nation, the Gulf Region Division has completed
hundreds of projects in the public works and water sector. Since 2004,
the division has completed 564 water and sewage projects throughout
Iraq, and has 36 ongoing. Division water and sewage projects directly
benefit more than 5 million people.

(Ronald A. Reeves works for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Central.)