By Scott Flenner
American Forces Press Service
Dec. 2, 2008 - Iraqi civilian and military dignitaries broke ground on the Army Canal Rehabilitation Project in Baghdad's Sadr City district yesterday. The ceremonial groundbreaking marked the beginning of a commitment by the Iraqi government to spend $50 million during the next three years in reconstruction efforts along the al-Kanat Road and surrounding areas.
The Army Canal, which runs more than 15 miles from Adhamiyah in northeastern Baghdad to Rustimiyah in southeastern Baghdad, was built in 1959 by Abd al-Kassem Quassim, then president of Iraq. The canal was meant to provide fresh drinking water and irrigation to the people of northeastern Baghdad, but after years of damage and sediment buildup, the canal has been unable to provide water for the people who rely so heavily upon it.
Construction for the refurbishment project is scheduled to begin Dec. 17.
"This marks a source of hope for the Iraqi people and an example of what the future holds," said Naeem Abub Misayd al-Kabi, deputy mayor of Baghdad.
The Army Canal rebuilding is the first step in an extensive three-year plan by the Iraqi government to improve the capital city. In conjunction with the canal project, the Sadr al-Kanat pump station will be refurbished, several parks and recreational areas will be built, numerous shops and stores will be created, and trees and plants will be sown along the canal.
The project has the potential to employ more than 50,000 people through its lifespan while improving essential services for the city's residents.
"This project will change the face of Baghdad," said Mayor Navet Alessawi said during yesterday's ceremony.
(Scott Flenner works in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 4th Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.)