Powering West Mosul’s water plants

Mosul was one of the last major holdouts in Iraq of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), who took control of the city in mid-2014. The military campaign to liberate the city started in October 2016 and continued for 10 months. 

Nearly one million civilians were evacuated during one of the largest managed evacuations in modern history. Mosul was declared fully liberated by the Prime Minister of Iraq in early July, and the difficult work of rebuilding has begun.

More than 700,000 civilians are still away from their homes – waiting to restart their lives. Through its Funding Facility for Stabilization, UNDP has been implementing projects in Mosul in close proximity to the front line since late 2016. 

More than 300 are already under way and hundreds more are starting in coming weeks. In support of the Government of Iraq, the Facility focuses on speed and functionality and is designed to help jumpstart local economies once the fighting stops. 

Ninety-five percent of all stabilization initiatives are contracted through the local Iraqi private sector. This lowers costs, ensures high levels of local ownership and produces jobs in the areas where they are needed the most. 

In the case of Mosul, the UNDP is contracting the local private sector to rebuild grids from the bottom-up and connect households as quickly as possible to the electricity, water and sewage networks. Public work crews are removing rubble and upgrading public buildings. 

Tens of thousands of Muslawis are working on stabilization initiatives – receiving income and spending it on essentials in the local market. Schools and health facilities are being rehabilitated, and more than 40 engineers and experts have been embedded in government department.  

We’ve had to find quick pragmatic solutions for difficult problems. The New Water Treatment Plant (al-Ayman al-Jadeda), which provides safe drinking water to half the population in western Mosul, is a good example. 

Rehabilitating the facility has involved fixing pumps and internal machinery as well as ensuring a predicable supply of power. After surveying local capacities, teams on the ground agreed on a pragmatic division of labour. 

With the Government providing technical guidance, the Danish Refugee Council replaced the transformers, which they had on hand, while UNDP strung a high voltage line across the Tigris river from eastern Mosul, where the Government has already restored parts of the power grid, to the water plant. 

The operation has been done very quickly at very low cost. Tractors and pulleys were used to hoist the cables on either side of the river, while skilled workers fixed the cables on top of the towers. 

The heat on the exposed riverbank in the middle of the Iraqi summer was punishing, and in between dragging cables and climbing hot metal towers in the sun, workers jumped into the Tigris to cool off. 

The line itself was strung across the river in just one day; by nightfall, the electricity directorate had reestablished current on the line There was a terrific atmosphere at the site. The workers on the project - all from Mosul - felt a great sense of pride. 

As the wire was pulled up from the river, everyone grabbed their mobile phones to snap selfies to send to their friends. Everything we do is done in the name of the Government. UNDP doesn’t brand its work with signs and posters. Iraqi flags were the ones flying at the site and during the hoisting. 

There’s a lot more to do in western Mosul, and we will be there to help the Government and people of Iraq build back one of the Middle East’s most beautiful and important cities. 

by Hugo de Vries, Stabilization Specialist, Funding Facility for Stabilization, UNDP Iraq

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