How about less than 7 hours of electricity per day?

How about less than 7 hours of electricity per day?

A scene in Baghdad’s unreliable electric distribution system. (Al Khafaji Mohammed)

If your electric power goes out for some reason, think of the situation in Baghdad, Iraq’s largest city. The electric grid rarely supplies more than seven hours of electricity per day, and that’s the best they’ve done for about 22 years. It’s been bad there since the 1991 Gulf War, when coalition forces bombed and destroyed the nation’s electricity grid.

Since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled the Saddam Hussein regime in 2003, a U.S.-backed reconstruction effort has pumped more than $5 billion into rebuilding the electric grid and distribution systems, according to the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. But in 10 years, there’s been very slow progress. A rise in the use of consumer goods since the invasion has multiplied a demand for electricity that still cannot be met today. Corruption in the reconstruction business is a major reason for the problem, according to Al Monitor.

Private generator operators are doing brisk business in the city. Middle East Online reported last fall that a businessman operating two 500-kilovolt diesel-fueled generators from a shack was supplying sporadic power to about 150 people in a neighborhood. The cost was $30 for three amperes per month, enough electricity for a small fridge, a television, a fan and some lights. But his customers get cut off when their allotment is exceeded. Besides the pollution caused by a city full of neighborhood generators, overloading the household electrical system has ruined many small appliances.

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