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Sunday, January 30, 2005

Man that's a hole.

Manhole covers of Baghdad sewers disappear
By Ali Karim

Azzaman, 2005-01-11

Beware if you have the courage to stroll in Baghdad streets. You many end up in a hole leading to the city’s already inundated sewers. Thieves, according to Baghdad Municipality, have recently stolen most of the manhole lids. Several deaths have already been reported in the impoverished districts of Sadr City and al-Shuala, particularly of children drowned after falling into the uncovered sewage pipes.

A manhole cover is currently worth more than 100,000 dinars ($75), which is a huge sum in Iraq. There are no police or security forces to protect Baghdad inhabitants and the city’s plunge into lawlessness following the U.S. invasion has encouraged criminals to take the law into their own hands.

The sewage system in Baghdad, home to more than five million people, is in shambles. The whole system needs complete overhaul, the municipality says. While the previous government lacked the resources to repair the system due to U.N. trade sanctions, the present authorities say money is not a problem.

The World Bank, the municipality says, has earmarked millions of dollars to rehabilitate Baghdad’s sewage system. But there are no contractors willing to take up the job. Foreign firms are no longer interested in what looked like lucrative Iraqi deals due to mounting insecurity. And local contractors are not qualified to do the job.