Friday, August 21, 2009

Power Hour

By: Ali Rawaf

A few days ago, I was one of the students complaining when my Spanish professor turned off the air-conditioning unit in the classroom so we can hear her better, “It is too hot,” I said.

“Go live in a third world country and you will know what it’s like to be without air-conditioning at all,” she retorted. Her response reminded me of home. Don’t get me wrong, we do have air-conditioning units in Iraq; they just don’t work most of the time.

Baghdad before 2003

After the assassination attempt on Saddam Hussein’s son in Baghdad in 1996, many believe that Saddam punished Iraqis by a couple of hours of power shortage a day. Gradually, the electric power hours of shortage were lessened. I can remember up to two years before the 2003 invasion, we experience very little power shortages in Baghdad.

As a result of American bombing to the power generating units in Iraq and the theft of the wires, cables, and other kind of electric equipment, we didn’t have electric power for a few days after April 9th, 2003. When the service came back, we enjoyed for only two hours and it was gone for a few days and ever since, that has been one of themes of Iraqis’ daily life. It is a big mess. I really want to go into details because it explains a little of our daily frustrations, things that the most of the world don’t have to deal with. And a lot of Iraqis too didn’t have to deal with this issue as much prior to March of 2003.

We have named the different sort of electric power we get in Iraq. We have the “government electric power,” “the street generator,” and “the home generator.” The first provides us with two to four hours of electric power at random timings of the day. The second provides us with power for about eight to twelve hours a day. Iraqis have to pay those who own those big street generators. The owners are merciless; they charge ridiculous amounts of money. They turn their generators on and off as they please. Also, they receive government funding and government-provided diesel. The owners of these generators (some were stolen from government storage or government office buildings) have crowded the neighborhoods with webs of wires and cables. It would take a very long time to get rid of those wires. Not only are the ugly and chaotic looking, they also have caused many fires and other damage to the streets, light posts, and the electric regulating units on the streets.

The government sometimes gives only one hour of power a day so that is why Iraqis rely on the owner of the “street generator.”

One of the wire webs caused by the street generators in a Baghdad neighborhood

Picture was taken from Energy Tribune

Dec. 1, 2008

The home generator is another story. It is one of the appliances that an Iraqi house must have. They run on gasoline. Even though, we have a big oil wealth in Iraq, Iraqi still have to suffer waiting in long queues in the middle of the summer to get some gasoline to run those generators. The generators are loud, disturbing, and cannot cover the basic electric need for an Iraqi home.

Home Generators

Picture was taken from Los Angeles Times

March 2, 2008

The government keeps announcing “buying electricity” from Iran, Syria, Jordan, and Turkey, but none of that has shown any tangible results. The government also promises people of maintenance being done on the old (bombed and stolen) electric units.

We are an oil-exporting country and we suffer from power shortage and lack of gasoline. Yesterday, Fatima Kamal from the Iraqi newspaper, Azzaman titled her article, “Fuel consumption soars as power supplies dwindle in Iraq.” In it, she quotes an official in the Ministry of Oil, “Iraq would need to import more fuel to meet demand.” It is due to the “high increase in fuel consumption was mainly due to the erratic power supplies with blackouts reaching 20 hours a day,” said the official who requested anonymity.

Iraq’s fuel consumption has gone up 17 million liters a month. That is 4 million more liters than what was reported in recent months. The Iraqi government estimates about $5 billion needed to improve the electric supplies according to Azzaman. That’s if the Oil Ministry fulfills their promise that “its refineries should meet local fuel consumption within a year.”

Iraqi child studying under the "Lala" light. Lala is a little light lamp that runs on fire fuel.

Picture was take from FB group Iraqi Children

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the view from the inside! I hope you develop this thread.