Monday, April 13, 2009

Living in darkness

New York Times Baghdad bureau blog provide a unique view of life in Baghdad. American N Y Times reports working in Baghdad are blogging about things that you do not see in the printed version.

The blog is also an opportunity for the Iraqi staff of the paper to share their experiences of being Iraqis living in Baghdad and working for this important American newspaper.

The Iraqi staff are the paper’s “eyes and ears on the ground” in Baghdad. They are the ones who risk their life’s and go out on the street talking to people, collecting information and provide information and analysis of local events.

The information that is collected by many of those “fixers” are “distilled” to form a major part of the articles we read in the printed version of N Y Times. I hate to speculate on how the Iraqi coverage would be without help from those Heroes.

Naturally those “fixers” are more at ease witting about their living conditions and problems faced by their follow Iraqis than speculating whether Obama withdrawal time table would be implemented in time or not. One post on the Baghdad bureau blog painted a grim picture. it is worth reading.

I am furious and extremely disappointed that the availability of electricity in my country has not improved a bit over the last 6 years of occupation. Billions and Billions were spent on “reconstruction” yet the electricity production is still nearly where it was 2003. See this US government Graph.

In 1991 war America destroyed most of our electricity generators and distribution system. In less than a year and despite of the genocidal sanctions that was imposed on Iraq WE the Iraqi engineers managed to restore the electricity in 6 months. Compared to the dismal lack of progress for the last 6 years it makes me very proud of our achievement. 

Keeping Iraq in the Dark  is a very informative OP-ED published by the New York Times. It was written by Glenn Zorpette the executive editor of I.E.E.E. Spectrum, the magazine of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

I am posting it here and hope that NY Times do not sue me for copyright infringement!!!

Wires running from private generators to electricity-starved homes in Baghdad in 2007.

Photo: Marko Georgiev for The New York Times

Liquid Electricity

By Mohammed Hussein

Last year I came back to Iraq from Syria, where for 15 months I enjoyed electricity 24 hours out of 24.

Since that time I have been trying to supply myself and family by any available means here in Iraq. But in vain. After many attempts, I admit that I have failed to maintain electricity in my home most of the time.

The main power board in my home is packed with power wire extensions from different power sources. You cannot imagine what it looks like, an electrical board choked with circuit breakers, power switches and green and red lights.

Many times I thought that I could switch the power to my home without help, but I stand regretfully gazing at that repulsive board. Even with inscriptions on the circuit breakers and power switches that clarify power sources such as “national power” and “street generator” it takes all my brainpower to understand what use I can get from that board.

One day an idea knocked at my head. A swimming pool. Yes, it would be the best alternative. I could spend a couple of hours in a swimming pool each day with my family, without the need for electricity. The next day I went to the market looking for a plastic pool. I picked one and returned home very satisfied, thinking that I was triumphant because electricity could not defeat me in the summer any more. I am the winner.

But in Iraq you can never guess what the next failure is. I set the pool in my garden in a proper place under the shade. I opened the water pipe to fill the pool, but another problem. There was no water in the pipe.

At that moment all my dreams were broken on the hard ground of reality. No water means no swimming, no refreshment. I thought it would be better to leave the water pipe open and check it from time to time, then if there is water and electricity, I will run the water pump so I can fill the pool quickly. I became like a fisherman waiting for fish.

I spent the rest of that day waiting for water to come from the pipe. Finally it happened before midnight and I had water.

I spent with a wonderful time swimming with my family, forgetting electricity for a couple of hours each day. But that happiness lasted until a disastrous announcement about an outbreak of cholera in Iraq.

About 417 cases of cholera were reported, according to the Iraqi Ministry of Health.

No more swimming. This was the end of my precious alternative. I could not risk my health. I removed the pool and everything was finished.

Electricity defeated me.

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