ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – A new World Bank project will allocate $210 million to rehabilitate key infrastructure needed to improve the quality of drinking water and wastewater services that will benefit some 5 million Baghdad residents who suffer from water shortages and help prevent the outbreak of waterborne diseases.
"The recently completed National Water and Land Strategy (2015-2035) indicates that Baghdad will need substantial investments in its water supply and wastewater treatment systems over the next 20 years," said Saroj Kumar Jha, World Bank Mashreq Regional Director in a press release on Wednesday.
The Baghdad Water Supply and Sewerage Improvement Project will support the Mayoralty of Baghdad and the Baghdad Water and Sewerage Authorities to improve utility management.
The project will also generate employment for the construction, operation, and maintenance stages and will reduce incidences of waterborne diseases to "improve the quality of life, health, and sanitation" for the people of Baghdad.
"In close coordination with the International Finance Corporation, this project will focus on creating a more favorable business environment, and on supporting the preparation of feasibility studies and transactions to enable private sector participation in the water sector," Jha added.
Inadequate infrastructure in Baghdad along with rapid population growth and the influx of internally displaced people from years of conflict has added more strain on Baghdad's water networks.
In addition to daily water service interruptions, there is also contamination of the city's clean water networks and groundwater aquifers due to leakage from sewer pipes.
"Contaminated water supply and improper disposal of sewage force families to spend a significant fraction of their income on medical treatment and to purchase bottled water," the statement read.
"Water supply and sanitation have immediate and major impacts on the quality of life of citizens," said Thikra Alwash, mayor of Baghdad, adding that the city is committed to improving public services for its residents.
The Baghdad Water Supply and Sewerage Improvement Project will finance the construction of a water reservoir that will have the capacity to hold 135,000 cubic meters of water, helping Baghdad to better manage its supply in the event of climate-induced droughts.
The project will also replace approximately 130 kilometers of the water distribution network as well as rehabilitate existing sewerage pumping stations to prevent untreated wastewater from being discharged into the Tigris River, thus preventing additional health risks to residents.
"Major cities like Baghdad face a growing population but have inadequate water infrastructure and service delivery capacity," said Abdulhamid Azad, lead water resources specialist and project team leader.
"This project will improve the city's water and sanitations services as well as support the Baghdad Water and Sewerage Authorities in improving their institutional knowledge and preparedness in relation to water security and urban water management," Azad added.
The Government of Iraq has relied heavily on international loans and bonds because of the global drop in oil prices coupled with a three-year war against ISIS and now a campaign to rebuild the country's already aging infrastructure.
The country’s oil minister is taking bids from international companies for oil exploration and a new pipeline. Iraq’s beleaguered power grid is also getting a boost with a $210.8 million contract financed through British and Swiss credit agencies for General Electric to upgrade and repair infrastructure.