The onerous cost of rebuilding the city of Mosul

Sunday 23/07/2017
Daunting mission. Workers remove rubble of a building destroyed during fighting between Iraqi forces and Islamic State fighters in eastern Mosul, Iraq, April 21, 2017. (Reuters)

Baghdad- Iraq has paid a very high price for retaking Mosul from the Is­lamic State (ISIS) in an 8-month battle that left the city in sham­bles. The cost of rebuilding the country’s second largest city is like­ly to be much higher.

An initial assessment suggested that billions of dollars would be needed to restore basic infrastruc­ture, rebuild razed neighbour­hoods and repair medical facilities, schools and cultural and religious centres.

Approximately 40,000 people are thought to have died in the fighting. ISIS car bombs as well as air strikes and artillery by the Iraqi military and an international coalition back­ing it caused many of the fatalities. More than 920,000 people — about half Mosul’s pre-war population — were displaced and live in crowded camps outside the city and the ad­jacent Kurdish region.

“The extent of destruction is massive, especially in the western part that comprises the old city, which was destroyed,” said Hus­sam Abbar, a council member of Nineveh governorate. “More than 90% of the city’s infrastructure was damaged in the military operations and vandalism undertaken by [ISIS] to slow the advance of the Iraqi Army.”

Initial estimates from the Fund for Iraq Reconstruction and the United Nations for rebuilding the city and its environs were $50 bil­lion, Abbar said.

“The water network in the west­ern side was destroyed as well as the main power plant in al-Sahaji, which supplied west Mosul and parts of the eastern side with elec­tricity. The cost of rehabilitating the plant only amounts to $40 million,” he said.

Economic activity and trade are paralysed in the city’s main markets of al-Corniche, Bab al-Taub, Farouk Street and Sarj Khana, which were 90% damaged, Abbar said.

“The extent of destruction of schools is estimated at 25% and the number of damaged and complete­ly flattened private properties, in­cluding buildings and cars is in the thousands. Huge amounts reaching up to 700 billion dinars ($591 mil­lion) will be needed to pay compen­sation only,” he said.

The science faculties and the li­brary at Mosul’s University were damaged, Abbar said, noting that classes could resume in other facul­ties that were not as badly affected.

“Religious landmarks and ar­chaeological sites in Mosul and Nineveh province were not spared ISIS’s wrath. On the contrary, they were main targets for the jihadists who considered ancient vestiges as symbols of heresy and anti-Islam,” Abbar said.

“They included the ancient city of Nimrud and its famous winged bull, the shrine mosque of Prophet Jirjis, the tomb of Prophet Yunus and al-Hadba minaret of al-Nuri mosque, which dates back hun­dreds of years.”

He stressed that “the govern­ment’s efforts will be primarily cen­tred on restoring basic services in the city, considering security and economic challenges.”

Humanitarian groups and the government said they fear that, if the rebuilding process in Mosul and its outskirts were not swift, a more serious humanitarian crisis could envelop the region.

The extent of damage was far greater than expected and much worse in the western half of the city than in the east. UN officials esti­mate Mosul’s basic infrastructure will cost more than $1 billion to re­pair and long-term reconstruction would cost many billions of dollars and take several years.

UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq Lise Grande was quoted as say­ing that initial assessments showed that “stabilisation,” which includes repairing water, sewage and elec­tricity infrastructure and reopening schools and hospitals, would cost more than twice initial estimates.

“In western Mosul, what we’re seeing is the worst damage of the entire conflict,” she said. “In those neighbourhoods where the fighting has been the fiercest, we’re looking at levels of damage incomparable to anything else that has happened in Iraq so far.”

The Iraqi government has devised a 10-year plan to rebuild Mosul and other provinces damaged in the fight against ISIS.

“It is a two-phased plan,” said spokesman for Ministry of Planning Abdul Zahra al-Hindawi. “The first phase is about stabilising the area by restoring basic needs and ser­vices in one year. The second phase would be implemented over ten years and will consist of rebuilding all liberated areas. The cost for it is estimated at $100 billion.”

Hindawi said Kuwait offered to host a donor conference for coun­tries that Iraq hopes will chip in generously through grants and soft loans. “Iraq is reeling under a se­vere economic crisis due to falling oil prices, and it needs regional and international support for rebuilding the cities liberated from the grip of terrorism,” he said.

While Mosul suffered the great­est damage, other cities in northern and western Iraq, including Falluja, Ramadi, Tikrit, Howija, Heet and Biji, were heavily damaged in the war to dislodge ISIS.

Iraq declared victory in Mosul, ISIS’s last stronghold in the country, on July 10. The jihadists, however, still controlled some areas in Iraq.