A Raw Sewage Tour of Baghdad: Day 1

[Note: Some information in this posting may be, and probably is, erroneous. Because we accepted the statement by Iraqui spokesperson, Tahseen Sheikhly (cited below), that a lake of raw sewage in Baghdad is so large that it can currently be seen on Google Earth, we assumed that the images available for Baghdad were relatively current. And anyone familiar with the old TV series “The Odd Couple,” knows the consequences of assuming. (Read the ninth bulleted item.)
The sole source of Sheikhly’s statement appears to be one AFP article that has been cited all over the internet and accepted as the truth, as is too often the case. In a comment, an astute reader—and fellow water blogger—gently and maybe too obliquely raised the possibility that the images we posted were hopelessly out of date for the points we wanted to make.

Our crack research team, utilizing the latest technology for accessing satellite images of the planet, believe they’ve pinpointed the lake of sewage cited in an AFP story about the dire water situation in Baghdad. The February 2008 article states that:

One of three sewage treatment plants is out of commission, one is working at stuttering capacity while a pipe blockage in the third means sewage is forming a foul lake so large it can be seen “as a big black spot on Google Earth,” said Tahseen Sheikhly, civilian spokesman for the Baghdad security plan.

Of course, a black spot the size of a car shows up on Google Earth if you zoom in sufficiently, but, if our researchers are correct, the offending cesspool can be seem in the map below, indicated by the poorly drawn arrow, and while it doesn’t look black from this view, it’s visible from Google Earth’s highest altitude. Scroll down to the next map and note how zooming in reveals what appears to be a large, black body of something extremely undrinkable.

Our researchers admit that they couldn’t find the malfunctioning waste water treatment plant (wwtp) that the article states is responsible for this ghastly new hydrological feature of Baghdad, but they did locate a massive wwtp called Rustimiyah North (which is in the southernmost reaches of the city, but is designated north to differentiate it from a sister—or brother—plant that lies slightly to its south.) It doesn’t seem to be operating at all. Those twenty or so basins should be filled with blue water like those in the image below it of a water treatment plant in the northern part of the city, which appears to be operating at 60 percent capacity.


One Response

  1. I wonder when those Google Earth photos were taken, 2006 or 2007.

    So sad, the situation in Iraq, lots of war and little available water.

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