IRC Assesses Water Situation in Haweeja
In the northern Iraqi town of Haweeja, a majority of the population is drinking untreated water, which can lead to disease. (Photo: Peter Biro/IRC)
The IRC has assessed the water situation in the politically tense northern Iraqi town of Haweeja and its rural surroundings. This area, situated in the predominantly Kurdish part of Iraq southwest of Kirkuk, is populated mainly by Arabs with reported pockets of pro-Saddam supporters. A recent ambush on a US military convoy here left 16 Arabs dead and one American soldier injured.
"The need for potable water in this area is high," says IRC water engineer Fausto Prieto. "A majority of the population is drinking untreated water."
The road leading out of Kirkuk, cutting across one of the richest oil fields in the country, is lined with children digging through smoldering garbage heaps, charred Iraqi tanks and oil pipes shooting out flames. The landscape is barren and the air quivers with heat.
The village of Kadmiya lies approximately 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Haweeja and its 6,000 inhabitants get their water from an old dilapidated treatment plant next to a dirty canal. The plant has not been maintained in years, the chlorination process is not working and the sand filters, serving to clear the water from unwanted particles, has not been changed in 20 years. "What can we do?" complains Muhammed, the plant operator and guard at the site, adding indignantly that his salary had not been paid in three months.
The water plants in the nearby villages of Tal Ali, Abassi and Zab show a similar state of decay. Leaking pumps suck contaminated water into plants that nobody has paid attention to since they were first installed.
"Adjustments and repairs to these plants will mean preventing a lot of unnecessary disease in the area," Fausto Prieto concludes.