Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Alone in the dark

Electric power has been terrible the last couple of days. Power outages for 4 or 5 hours after which we get 2 hours of electric bliss and so on. I wasn't able to blog yesterday, due to the fact that I usually write at home in a word file, then I post the entries at the Internet cafe across the street later just to save some valuable online time.

Three or four weeks ago, the minister of electricity(we didn't have that one before) announced that electric power stations have finally been fixed, reaching pre-war production levels. The following days we were delighted to have 10, 12 hours (or even a full day!) of continous electricity. It was a convenience we had forgot for months.

However the outage scheduling returned about a week ago. We had either 3 hours of alternating blackouts for every 3, or 2 hours of blackouts after every 4. This we were able to cope with, especially that the heat is endurable now, not anything even close to the nightmares of last July and August. And we are having some cool nights.

But the last two days something apparently went wrong. There isn't any official statement about it yet, but we heard that Al Musayab power substation south of Baghdad was down and they are trying hard to fix things. Someone from the ministry of electricity stated yesterday that outage scheduling will remain in effect through the whole of winter. Bad news I guess. I just hope it will be fully restored until next summer. I'm not very enthusiastic about spending another summer like the last one. It was like Hell.

Iraq had the most sophisticated power grid in the middle east during the eighties. It was damaged heavily during the first Gulf war. After which Saddam ordered that electricity be restored in Baghdad before his birthday on April 28. Which it was. However high-pressure cables throughout Iraq were beyond any repair. They worked around this by linking the two largest Power stations in Baiji and Nasiriyah to supply Baghdad's substations. And Baghdad's problem was solved. Other provinces had to suffer 12-16 hours of outage just to supply the capital. It remained that way throughout the whole of the nineties. A few minor fixes and maintenances were done here and there, but it was mainly still the same. The regime simply refused to maintain or upgrade the power grid and blamed the UN embargo on this. Although it was allowable for Iraq to import necessary supplies and spare parts for restoring power according to the Oil-For-Food program. The regime alleged otherwise to Iraqis.

After April 9. The coalition authority attempted to balance the situation. They ordered that power be supplied to all provinces even if doing so on the expense of the capital. Which resulted in the electricity problems you have all probably heard about and the widespread indignation among Baghdadi's. The looting of copper used in high-pressure cables and attacks against stations didn't help too. A friend of mine who is an electric engineer explained all this to me. A large number of Iraqis however do not believe that this is the case. They say that its all just a plot by Americans, some sort of psychological warfare to wear them down. This is accepted as wisdom in Iraq, and anyone who argues with this logic might be accused as a 'collaborator'. Many attacks against substations in Baghdad followed. A woman who was the manager of Baghdad's electricity was shot and killed in cold blood at her house in front of her two daughters three months ago.