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Iraqis thirst for water and power

Lack of basic services is prompting growing protest aimed at Iraqi officials.

(Page 2 of 2)



In some of Baghdad's toughest neighborhoods, like the Sunni-dominated Adhamiya, where gun battles and assassinations are common, even large generators, sometimes owned cooperatively by wealthier neighborhoods, have been targeted.

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One Adhamiya resident, who asked not to be named, says his community sold their generators after a death threat from local insurgents.

Mrs. Abed says she's fortunate to get eight hours electricity of power a day in her cramped home in central Baghdad that she shares with her husband and five children. They live in a ground-floor apartment, so the rooftops where many escape to sleep aren't an option for them.

Instead, they have rolled up their carpet to sleep on the cooler tile floors, and take turns fanning each other. A cool shower is usually not an option, since the neighborhood's water is turned off for days at a time. "I don't want to give up hope completely - maybe the government will start to do something. But for now, we're hardly sleeping."

But at least someone is profiting from Baghdad's decaying infrastructure.

Haider al-Turki grins out from a grease-stained face and shouts to make himself heard over the roar of a portable generator. "I'm making a lot of money thanks to cheap Chinese generators and the terrorists,'' says the former auto mechanic who switched to fixing generators full-time two years ago. It's a skill he learned while a conscript in Saddam Hussein's army.

Sweeping his hand over the jumble of generators spilling from his small workshop onto the sidewalk he says, "I'm the only person I know who's benefiting from this situation."

Generating a profit

This summer, Mr. Turki says, he's repairing about 20 generators every day, up from about 10 a day last summer. He charges about $20 a pop. But even he says he hopes he'll be out of a job soon.

"I'd be pleased to going back to fixing cars some day - all of my customers are the lucky ones anyway,'' he says. "Most Iraqis can't afford a generator, and they're just trying to live through this."

Turki says he has a number of friends who have shut small businesses because of intermittent power, and worries that a weak economy will lead to an even less stable Iraq than the one now.

"We have two problems: the terrorists and the government that is stealing from us," he explains.

He gestures to a tangle of wires hanging from a utility pole outside his shop, which he said exploded about a month ago.

A repairman from the Ministry of Public Works showed up a few days later and then demanded bribes from all of the businessmen on the street to get electricity to the neighborhood up and running again.

"We wouldn't pay - we're fed up with this stuff. The Americans can't fix it and the government is just out for themselves. What did we vote for anyway?"

Material from wire services was used in this article.

Electricity and Oil

As demand for electricity in Iraq rises in the summer months, the country has continued to suffer chronic distribution problems, even as electricity production increases.

IRAQI ELECTRICITY PRODUCTION:

Prewar 2003: 95,000 megawatt hours/day

June 2005: 100,000 megawatt hours/day

Estimated summertime need: 204,000 megawatt hours/day

December 2005 target: 110,000 megawatt hours/day (revised down from 120,000 megawatt hours/day)

OIL PRODUCTION AND EXPORT

Prewar 2003

Production: 2.6 million barrels per day
Export: 2.1 million barrels per day

May 2005

Production:2 million barrels per day
Export: 1.4 million barrels per day

December 2005 targets:

Production: 2.8 million barrels per day
Export: 1.8 million barrels per day

Source: The US Government Accounting Office July 2005 Iraqi Reconstruction report

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