go back

Press Update
August 2003

Report from Tom Sager, Fall, 2003


by Tom Sager, coordinator

August 3, 2003

In late June / early July 2003, I traveled to Iraq with a small group led by VFP member Amira Matsuda. My major purpose in traveling was to evaluate the effect of invasion and occupation on the six water treatment plants in Iraq which VFP has rebuilt. Below is a short report. Special thanks are due to Amira for her invaluable help on three separate trips to Iraq. I am overwhelmed by the hospitality shown to us in difficult circumstances by Amira, her family in Hillah, and the Iraq people in general.


During the three years preceding the invasion of Iraq, Veterans for Peace, working with our partner organization, Life for Relief and Development (http://www.lifeusa.org) rebuilt six water treatment plants in Iraq, serving an estimated 100,000 people with clean water. We also sent three delegations to Iraq to work alongside the Iraqis rebuilding these facilities. Members of these delegations, upon returning to the United States and other countries, were able to do educational work on the debilitating effects of sanctions on the Iraqi people which proved to be of incalculable value.

During June and July 2003, I visited five of the six water treatment plants which Veterans for Peace rebuilt in Iraq. All five are working to some degree - although there are some serious problems with the four Abu Khaseeb plants that need to be fixed. This is a sharp contrast to my December 2002 visit, during which I found the plants to be, for the most part, in good condition and working well.

Current problems with the Abu Khaseeb plants were detailed in an early June report from Vicki Robb, Development Director, and Adil al-Nuami, Engineer, of our partner organization, Life for Relief and Development.

Vicki and Adil visited Mansouria al-Shatt in mid-June and found the plant in good working order. I visited Hai al-Risalah with Vicki and Adil toward the end of June. We found that plant in reasonably good condition, too.

LIFE continues to do wonderful work in Iraq. They were active doing relief work throughout the invasion period, and have expanded their work since the occupation began with many new projects. (http://www.lifeusa.org)

Throughout the trip, I met with hospital administrators, doctors, and other health care workers. Diseases caused by polluted water are still the largest killers of children, and the incidence of water-borne diseases is again on the rise, largely due to the disruption in government services caused by the invasion and occupation. Thus, our help in providing clean water is needed more than ever.

My observations also lead me to conclude that the occupation government is largely ineffectual and likely to remain so for some time, although the British seem to be marginally more effective than the United States. Thus, if left to the occupation forces, it could be a long time before water services are restored, even to pre-invasion levels.

Installations that avoided being looted were for the most part protected by local workers and citizens who felt they had a stake in the continued functioning of these institutions. Thus, it is heartening to find that only one of our six plants was looted.

The Iraq Water Project Committee has made a commitment to these six plants, and has decided to continue, for the present, to maintain these plants, the current military/political situation notwithstanding. I agree wholeheartedly with this decision.

Some members have expressed reservations that future work in Iraq might be seen as "supporting" or "legitimizing" the invasion and occupation of Iraq. I agree that we must avoid all appearances of working with or supporting the occupying forces. I believe that Veterans for Peace can and should continue to be a strong force for peace and justice in Iraq, while both working toward an end to the occupation of Iraq and providing much needed clean water to the people of Iraq.


The war has gone from the invasion stage to the occupation stage; and resistance to occupation appears to be increasing in all areas. Also the occupiers have thus far been unable or unwilling to govern effectively, or to stem the looting and lawlessness, in which we hear that the occupation forces continue to participate. Thus, the situation at any of these water treatment plants could change drastically and suddenly.

Although chlorine and alum were still available during my visit, there seems to be deep concern that because of the disruption in government services, these chemicals could become unavailable at any time. The same observation pertains to spare parts, and all but the simplest forms of maintenance.

Prices for both labor and materials seem to have increased drastically. I would expect costs to be much higher now than when we first rebuilt these plants. I do not have estimates of the cost of these repairs.

The aqueduct bringing water from Nasariya to Basrah is not functioning due, I am told, to the destruction of a pumping station during the invasion. Thus, the four Abu Khaseeb plants are again drawing water from the Shatt al-Arab and neighboring canals. This water is brackish and dirty and of much lower quality than the Nasariya water. It is also harder on the equipment which for that reason will require more maintenance until the aqueduct is functioning again.



Water trucks fill up regularly at Labanni and truck purified water to other neighborhoods in the Basrah area. One was filling up at the time I was visiting. It was, indeed very fortunate that we chose to rebuild this facility. The beneficial effects of our work at Labanni have been magnified many fold.

Immediate needs are:

1. Supply six high lift pumps.
2. Two high lift pumps require maintenance.
3. Maintain or replace base for one high lift pump.
4. Nozzles inside filters need maintenance.
5. Replace high-capacity generator.


Damage from the bombing of the bridge over the canal adjacent to the water treatment plant and the looting was very apparent. Because of the lack of chlorinators, chlorine was being piped directly into the sedimentation tank. The bombed out bridge has been replaced by a temporary structure supplied by British occupation forces.

Immediate needs are:

1. Repair one high lift pump.
2. Two low lift pumps need maintenance
3. Two alum injectors with all accessories and the electrical wiring were looted and must be replaced.
4. Two boosters for the chlorine systems have been looted and must be replaced.
5. There is a need for 5 fluorescent lights for outdoor lighting.
6. Electrical wiring and fixtures in the operators room need maintenance.
7. Repair and paint 7 steel doors that were damaged by the bombing.
8. Replace 100 sq. meters of corrugated sheeting damaged by the bombing.
9. Supply 150KV generator


Like Hamden Bridge, the damage from the bombing of a bridge over a nearby canal were very apparent. The British occupation forces have replaced the bombed out bridge with a temporary structure. In addition they have supplied the plant with a temporary portable chlorinator.

Leaks in the sedimentation tank seem to have been caused by settling of the foundation, probably due to the bombing. I suspect that it may be necessary to reinforce the foundation under the sedimentation tanks.

Immediate needs are:

1. Replace two chlorine injectors and piping.
2. Repair alum injector and replace piping.
3. Repair low lift pump with conductor and switches.
4. Repair damage to operator's room from bombing.
5. Repair leakage from sedimentation tank, and strengthen foundation if necessary.
6. Supply 150KV generator.
7. Replace 4" pipes with 10" pipes.


Abu Floos continues to be plagued by administrative problems which have caused shortages of chlorine and alum. Also, it is the only one of our Abu Khaseeb plants not connected to the aqueduct which brought higher quality water from Nasariya to the Basrah area. It is hoped that these administrative problems can be overcome soon through the reorganization of the government.

The plant has borrowed a 150KV generator, but needs to have their own.

Immediate needs are:
1. Replace two low lift pumps.
2. Maintain two high lift pumps and add one additional pump.
3. Supply outdoor lighting.
4. Supply two swamp coolers and fans.
5. Maintain wiring throughout facility.
6. Supply 150KV generator.
7. Connect plant to aqueduct.


I visited Hai al-Risalah with Vicki Robb and Adil al-Nuami of Life for Relief and Development. Very fortunately, the Director of Water Distribution for the City of Faloojah was at the plant at the time.

The Director informed us that the plant was working well with the exception of the chlorinators which had been damaged beyond repair by "bad chlorine" that came in under the Oil for Foods program. They had already ordered new chlorinators.

The plant now has a small generator that was given to them by the International Red Cross.


This is the plant I did not visit. Vicki and Adil visited Mansouria and report that everything is fine there. This is good news. Mansouria is in a rural setting far from the fighting during the invasion, and therefore spared the destruction from war and looting. Also Mansouria had a generator and was accustomed to receiving very little electricity, so the electrical outages that accompanied the invasion had little effect on Mansouria.


Our pre-invasion work was very successful. We were able to supply approximately 100,000 Iraqi people with clean water. We were also able to do a lot of educational work around the need for ending the sanctions and preventing the invasion of Iraq. We could not have done this educational work separately from our humanitarian work.

I recommend that we put our fund-raising into high gear. There is great need throughout Iraq for clean water. We should raise the necessary funds to refurbish the Abu Khaseeb plants as quickly as possible. We must also continue to do our educational work, this time in advocacy of an immediate end to the occupation and returning Iraq and its resources to the Iraqi people.

Tom Sager,