Better Basra: Getting clean water to southern Iraq
20 June 2007
years after the invasion, rebuilding Iraq is still a huge challenge. Making sure
that people have clean water is essential but the infrastructure for this is
badly lacking: Iraq’s pipes, pumps and purifiers are often old, damaged and
unreliable. In Basra, the country’s second city, the situation is especially
As part of
ongoing efforts to
improve electricity and water supplies in the region, DFID is working with local
authorities on a series of projects designed to tackle major weaknesses in
infrastructure. Over a million people stand to benefit from the projects, which
involve the construction of a water purifier, a training centre for engineers
and a pump station.
Getting purer water to Basra
you live in Basra, the taps in your home are not the best way to get hold
of clean water. A deteriorating pipe system means that what arrives at
your sink is likely to be too filthy to drink. This forces many people to buy
their water from street vendors, who have obtained their supplies from the local
petrochemical plant, where clean drinking water is produced by the process of
However, by 2005 the equipment in the plant was ageing, operating at less
than half its capacity. In conjunction with
UNICEF, DFID has carried out some
essential repairs. One of the three reverse osmosis units has been replaced and
the rest of the equipment has been refurbished. When the repair work has been
completed, the plant should be running at full capacity, providing street
vendors – and, by extension, half a million people in Basra – with water that’s
safe to drink.
Skills to secure water supplies
Over recent years the water infrastructure in southern Iraq has been the
victim of lack of maintenance and under-funding. If the improvements currently
being carried out are to be sustained, staff must have the skills to look after
the hardware that water supplies depend on.
This is why DFID has also funded a training centre that
teaches essential maintenance skills to engineers. The only one of its kind in
southern Iraq, it provides practical lessons in fixing leaks, repairing
equipment, treating water and working safely. Opened in March 2006, the design
of the centre was based on a similar one in Northern Ireland, which members of
the Basra Water Directorate visited in late 2005 to receive practical training.
The centre in Basra has already supported the development of over 2,000 staff
in four provinces.
A reliable pump station for Basra
Hartha Pump Station is one of the five major water treatment plants in Basra. In
recent years, however, rapidly ageing electrical and mechanical equipment have
meant that the water supply from the station has been
unreliable. A vital link in the chain that brings water to Basra, Al Hartha
station could not be allowed to degenerate further.
In November 2006 DFID funded a project to bring the Pump Station up to date.
The project replaced 15 pumps, refurbished seven others, provided new electrical
items and built a new guard house. Work was completed in February 2007,
improving the water supply for some 500,000 people (over a quarter of the
population of Basra and its suburbs).
In addition to these three projects, DFID is helping each province to define its
overall reconstruction priorities. Assisted by the UK-led
Reconstruction Team (PRT), local councils are putting together Provincial Development Strategies, which should set out clear
plans for longer term improvements to infrastructure.
DFID is also working with
the central government to strengthen the management of the economy, begin structural
reforms and make it easier for Iraqi businesses to invest at home. By helping to
remedy specific regional problems, and by engaging with decision-makers at the
national level, DFID is working to ensure that the foundations are set firmly in
place not just for a better Basra, but for a stronger country as a whole.
- Between 2003 and 2007 DFID has invested around £78 million in essential
infrastructure repairs in southern Iraq.
- The above projects were overseen by Iraqi contractors and have created
approximately 25,000 work days for Iraqis.
- Since 2003 DFID has increased water supply by up to 30% in some
provinces, and improved the electricity supply to 1.5 million people in
Basra. We have replaced 200 kilometres of water mains in southern Iraq.
- The UK has committed a total of £744 million towards Iraq, and has fully
disbursed the £544 million pledged at the Madrid Donors' Conference in
October 2003. Further pledges of £200 million have been announced by the
Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Foreign Secretary.