Lakes of Sewage in the Streets
01/18/04: (ICH) Ahmed Abdul Rida points to his tiny, dilapidated water pump which sits quietly on the ground in his small home in Sadr City, Baghdad.
“We have one hour of electricity, then none for 8 hours. This pump is all we have to try to pull some water to our home,” he tells me, “So whenever we get some electricity we try to collect what water we can in this bowl.”
He points to an empty metal bowl that sits near the lifeless pump.
When they do get water, most of the time it is brown water from the Tigris. The volume of flow from the Tigris, due to all of the dams upriver from Baghdad, has dropped from 40 billion cubic meters in the ‘60’s to 16 billion cubic meters today.
So the water Ahmed gets for his two and a half hours a day of electricity is a concentrated cocktail of pesticides, fertilizers, heavy metals from ancient piping, and who knows how much Depleted Uranium, raw
sewage and other chemicals released from American and Iraqi munitions from the ’91 Gulf War, and the more
recent Anglo-American Invasion.
He points to a bottle of the last water they collected to show me a sample of what his family has to drink. It has the color watered down iced tea and smells like a dirty sock.
No wonder he and his family are constantly plagued by diarrhea, with many of them suffering from kidney
stones. Yet these are just the most obvious effects from the families in Sadr City who drink the polluted/contaminated water. For heavy metals in their water also damages the liver, brain and other internal
All of the houses I visited today in Sadr City had the same problem-little or no electricity, no running water aside from 2-3 hours a day of the brown smelly liquid that sputters from their pipes when their small pumps function, and raw sewage outside in the streets where the children are playing.
This was on a good day. The last rain was several days ago, and not a big one at that. Ahmed tells me, as do
several of the other men I spoke with throughout the poverty-stricken area, that during most rain showers
there are literally lakes of raw sewage that fill the streets and the nearby homes.
Geographically, Sadr City is a low point in the region, so most of the water flows towards it, carrying garbage and raw sewage when the rains come.
We walk outside and towards another home to see their dismal pipe situation. On the way, children are
playing catch with an old piece of black rubber (from a tire?) until it lands in the greenish water standing on the side of the small road between the two houses. A little girl with dirt smeared arms picks up their ‘toy’ and tosses it back to her friend as sewage drips off it.
“Our children are always sick here. We have tried picking up areas so they have somewhere clean to play,
but people always throw their garbage there anyway. The government hasn’t done anything to help us yet,
and we have asked them,” a neighbor of Ahmed’s tells me.
He goes on to say that they pay the government the monthly electrical bill, even though they lack potable
water and average 2.5 hours of electricity per day. There is no sewage system, and pools of it are standing throughout the neighborhood.
The stench makes me pull my kefir up over my nose at times. We walk to the end of a street where a large
pond of greenish sewage stands, flies buzzing madly about.
Ahmed says to me, “The whole area is like this. We have over a million people here, and all of us suffer. Sometimes we have to drink the sewage. Yesterday our water smelled like petrol, because there is a station nearby and we all know the benzene leaks into our water.”
I drive to another block of Sadr City and get the same news from residents there. Constant diarrhea, nausea,
and oftentimes kidney stones.
The usual green and brown streams of sewage line the street, with children walking across it.
As I walk back towards the car a man tells me, “Nobody from the Council (US Appointed Iraqi Governing
Council) cares about us here. We hear that companies are coming here to rebuild, but we haven’t seen anything rebuilt. We know they only came for the oil. Our situation hasn’t changed one bit since the American’s arrived here. We are still suffering just as we did under Saddam. But now it is worse because
there are fewer jobs, and it is even more dangerous for us.”
Bechtel signed their infrastructure repair/rehabilitation contract on April 17, 2003. One of the agreements of this contract states that Bechtel is to repair or rehabilitate critical water treatment, pumping, and distribution in 15 urban areas in central and southern Iraq within the first 6 months.
Sadr City, obviously, is not too high on their priority list.
Dahr Jamail is an independent journalist reporting from Iraq
Copyright: Dahr Jamail
Join our Daily News Headlines
Daily News Headlines