Crimes against Humanity: The Destruction of
Iraq’s Electricity Infrastructure. The Social,
Economic and Environmental Impacts
Souad N. Al-Azzawi.
October 27, 2013 BRussells Tribunal and Global
During 2009, after six years of occupation,
with a population of about 30 million and
required peak demand of 6800 – 7500 MW ,
only 3,300 MW of electricity was available.
To date, Iraq cannot achieve it’s 9,925 MW
production of the late 1980s. In other
words, the Iraqi population is getting only
30% of the electricity production the
pre-occupation government had previously
provided for them. Electricity
came to Iraq in 1917 .
According to UNDP, 2008 , until 1990,
Iraq enjoyed an excellent electricity
infrastructure, where generation capacity
exceeded the demand of about 6000 mega watts
(MW), and additional power generation plants
were under construction prior to the Gulf
War in 1991. The total installed generating
capacity was 9,295 MW, for a population of
(22) million at that time . The system
supported a peak demand of about 5,100 MW.
87% of population had access to electricity
during the eighties.
Out of the thirty power plants which were built
prior to the American occupation, twenty were
installed and commissioned into service within
the period of 1970 – 1980  by the national
government of the Republic of Iraq.
During the multiple attacks, economic sanctions
and occupation, the electrical power production
network was systematically and intentionally
destroyed by American forces  . After the
invasion of Iraq in 2003, the electrical power
production capacity dropped to only 3,300 MW
, which was drastically under the national
During 2009, after six years of occupation, with
a population of about 30 million and required
peak demand of 6800 – 7500 MW , only 3,300 MW
of electricity was available. To date, Iraq
cannot achieve it’s 9,925 MW production of the
late 1980s. In other words, the Iraqi population
is getting only 30% of the electricity
production the pre-occupation government had
previously provided for them.
Destruction of the Electrical Power Generation
System in Iraq
Barton Gellman wrote in Washington Post, Jan 23,
1991; [In 1991 war, 700 targets were identified
and bombed, 28 were "key nodes" of electrical
power generation. The allies flew 215 sorties
against the electrical plants, using unguided
bombs, TC, and laser guided GBU-110 bombs.
Between the sixth and seventh days of the air
war, the Iraqis shut down what remained
electrical grid "not an electron was flowing"
said one target planner] .
The UNDP report  emphasized that about 70% of
Iraq’s installed power generating capacity was
damaged or destroyed during the 1991 Gulf War.
All major power stations were damaged and nearly
80% of the gas turbines units were affected.
Gellman also wrote that “we have to emphasize
here that the periling planning for the bombing
campaign began before Iraq even invaded Kuwait
last Aug.”] .
This is all indicates that the major goals of
the bombing was not liberating Kuwait or Iraq,
rather, it was the total destruction of the
civilian infrastructure. With the combined
impacts of the comprehensive economical sanction
& the deteriorating health care system, a crime
of decimation and depopulation was put into
place and committed.
The destroyed electricity generating stations
and oil refineries were partially repaired
during Iraq’s reconstruction campaign of
1991-1993 . However, without the spare parts
required during the economical sanction imposed
on Iraq, only about 5300 MW generating capacity
was repaired .
In 2003, during the military operations of the
invasion, the United States forces retargeted
electrical power distribution facilities .
Attacks on distributing systems were carried out
with carbon fiber bombs. Electrical power was
out for over thirty days after US strikes on
transformer facilities in al-Nasiriya. After all
this destruction, the electrical power
generating capacity in Iraq dropped to only 20%
of its original capacity . Accordingly, daily
electricity blackouts for about 20 hours became
a fact of life. With that Iraq’s water
purification & sewage treatment systems, health
care, sanitation, and other related services
faced major malfunctions.
Since the occupation of Iraq, average daily
electricity supply in Baghdad homes has been
only 3-5 hours .
Electricity Crises in Iraq: Environmental and
Lack of electricity in a country where summer
temperatures reach 120º F can be torture. With
ever decreasing hours of supply from the
national grid, each house in the country depends
on house hold generators. These generators,
depending on size, type & generating capacity
can provide an average supply of (8-10) house of
electricity a day, often less.
Estimated number of household generators:
According to the statistics of the Ministry of
Trade that is related to the food ration
distribution system; there were about four
million families of different sizes in Iraq in
2004 . Total related estimated population is
28 Million. No real census of Iraq’s population
has been conducted since 1997.
In 2010, according to projected number of
population, the projected number of families
became about 4,428,000. Depending on this number
we assume that the approximate number of small
and medium household generators in major cities
are 2.5 million units. If we add 0.4 million
extra units for commercial centers (restaurants,
police stations, government offices, hospitals,
municipalities), & other 0.3 million larger
units for street grid generators. Total number
of generators in Iraq becomes about 3.2 million
To conclude this point, since 2003 major sources
of electricity supply in Iraq are:
National electricity grid, which ranges from
(3-8) non-continuous hours/day in Baghdad
Small household generators within the
capacities of (1- 12 KVA
Street & local grids electricity from medium
size generators of private sectors (12-60
KVA). These sources sale few Amperes per
line for houses in one or two streets for
certain time schedule.
Environmental and Health Impacts Related to
Electricity in Iraq
Electricity supply crises caused enormous
environmental and health problems. Some of these
problems are related to the use of hundreds of
thousands house hold generators that consumes
fossil fuel (crude oil, heavy oil, gas oil,
gasoline, kerosene, etc.). Problems such as the
Emission of about
(8.2) Million Metric Ton of CO2 /year to
atmosphere, Calculations of Co2 emissions
In addition to other measured sources of
annual CO2 emission in Iraq (118.309 MMT)
, and (141 MMT) from Iraq’s occupation
military operations from 2003-2007. This
additional amount of CO2 emission is
contributing to global warming.
Increase of hydrocarbons (HC) emission as a
result of unburned or partially burned fuel
from generators. HC includes many toxic
compounds. Continues exposure to such
toxicants causes cancer & other adverse
health effects .
Existence of hydrocarbons (HC) fumes from
the generators in residential areas would
react with Nitrogen oxides in the presence
of sunlight to form ozone. Ozone in the
lower atmosphere would form the
photochemical smog. Photochemical smog cause
respiratory problems, continues watering of
the eyes. Cardio-vascular problems if
continuously exposed to ozone. Increase of
the rate of cancer cases in Iraq partially
attributed to these toxic pollutants.
Noise pollution, where most of these
generators roar together in residential
areas. Noise interference peaks up to
exceed the acceptable level of ambient noise
Excessive heat losses from unit generators
add to already unbearable heat of summer in
Other health impacts are:
Continuous hardship, discomfort &
psychological problems related to
inconsistency of electrical supply
especially for family members with health
The problem of getting enough fuel from
black markets in a country suffers from lack
of security, cities divided into cages and
cells by huge concrete walls, and hundreds
of military check points. A trip to a
gasoline station might take 3-4 hours with
high risk of getting killed or injured by
side road car explosion.
Financial problems where each family has to
spend about (200-300) USD on private
Without continuous electrical supply no
cooling systems, refrigeration systems do
not work properly. As a result food
poisoning is a very familiar disease among
the population of Iraq with highest rate of
children mortality in the region.
Health car & hospitals dis-functioning
problems. Without continues and consistent
electricity supply, hospitals cannot
function, perishable medicines spoil, water
cannot be purified and raw sewage cannot be
Deterioration of sanitation & life quality
parameters. Baghdad ranked No 221 city, or
the worst city according to Mercer quality
of living cities of 2012.
Economic problems related to industrial and
irrigation water conversion & drainage
systems, where millions of acres of
agricultural land are turning into desert
Souad N. Al-Azzawi, Associate
Professor in Environmental Engineering, member
of the Executive Committee of the BRussells
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UNDP report 2008: Overview of Iraq’s
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Barton Gelman. Washington Post, jan23, 1991.”
Allied Air War Struck Broadly in Iraq”.
 Off Target. Human Right Watch. Dec. 11,
 ICRC, 2008: IRAQ; No let-up in the
 Electricity crisis at its worst point in
Iraq. NBC News.com.
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 Niqash/Society. ‘Iraq last official
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