The people of Kirkuk are today experiencing a new feeling, unknown across the rest of the country: they are enjoying the blessing of electricity day and night! For the first time since the invasion of Iraq in 2003
Across the city its inhabitants can now go about their daily lives without the lingering fear of an imminent loss of electricity.
“Finally I can watch Iraqi or AC Milan soccer matches without fear of a sudden power-cut,” exclaimed Ferhad Amin, a young man living in Shorja neighbourhood.
Kirkuk has not witnessed continual electricity supplies since 1991, when Saddam Hussein cut off power to out-lying provinces in order to ensure Baghdad’s power supply in the wake of the military defeat in Kuwait. Kirkuk, like many other cities, only saw two hours of daily electricity supply. After the 2003 war, things only became worse.
“There were no lights in the streets and houses were lit by flames from lamps or white oil bottles sealed with pieces of dates,” said Amin, saying that Kirkuk resembled a “ghost city.”
To remedy the problem, the provincial government contracted out power contracts to owners of giant commercial generators and supplied them with subsidized kerosene. But, according to Amin, much of the kerosene fell into the black market and beyond the reach of the normal citizens of Kirkuk.
At the same time the provincial government began the task of rehabilitating power supply stations, increasing daily power until it reached 14 hours, far higher than other provinces across Iraq.
Then, at the beginning of June, the province was able to secure 24 hours of daily electricity. While the power stations only supply 14 hours of daily electricity, an increase in the supply of kerosene covering the additional hours was implemented explained Dulair Samad, director of the province’s information department.
“The province increased the kerosene quota distributed to generator owners by 75%,” he told Niqash, adding that the owners of commercial generators are now contractually obliged to “provide 10 hours supply of electricity and to keep the current price of [Kerosene at] eight thousand Iraqi dinars [US $7].”
“We have fully solved the problem of peoples need for electricity during the hot summer season,” said Samad, adding that strict penalties will be imposed on generator owners not fulfilling their obligations.
The province is now working on extending the coverage from power plants so that it can become less reliant on generators.
However, the owners of the generators are not happy with the province’s decision as most of them were previously supplying less than 10 hours power, while making additional profit through the black market sale of kerosene.
“I may reconsider working in this profession,” said Nateq Baker, who runs a commercial generator in Dur al-Milhij. “The government provides us with 6000 litres [of subsidized kerosene], barely enough to operate the generator for 10 hours.”
Yet, even while some complain, the majority of Kirkuk is rejoicing in the new found freedom of permanent electricity. The rest of Iraq looks on enviously.