No plan for Mosul: Chaos and neglect slow Iraqi city’s recovery

The sun sets behind destroyed buildings in the west side of Mosul, Iraq. (AP)
Updated 04 February 2019

No plan for Mosul: Chaos and neglect slow Iraqi city’s recovery

  • Two years after the battle in which Iraqi forces recaptured Mosul from Daesh, the authorities do not own enough equipment to clear the rubble littered across the city
  • Companies hired by the governor on lucrative contracts to make up the shortfall work deliberately slowly, or sometimes do not exist

MOSUL, Iraq: The demolition of a wrecked building in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul where Daesh used to execute men they said were gay is already in its third month.
Homeless boys who hunt for scrap in the remains of the former National Insurance Company building work quicker some days than the lone digger perched on its crumbling carcass.
Two years after the battle in which Iraqi forces recaptured Mosul from Daesh, the authorities do not own enough equipment to clear the rubble littered across the city.
Hundreds of Mosul council’s vehicles were destroyed in fighting or used by Daesh as suicide bombs. Few have been replaced.
Companies hired by the governor on lucrative contracts to make up the shortfall work deliberately slowly, or sometimes do not exist, lawmakers and locals say.
Mosul was held by Daesh for three years. Under the militant group’s strict interpretation of Islamic law, homosexuality is a grave sin punishable by death. But rights activists say those executed in the seven-story insurance building, now reduced to two floors, were often Daesh opponents who were falsely accused.
The digger on top of the building is hired for $300 a day, a laborer at the site said. It often stands idle.
The regional governor denies allegations of fraud and says not enough money is coming to his office to fund rehabilitation.
Many residents are struggling financially. Families forced to build their own homes go into debt, borrowing from friends and living off charity. Others cram into increasingly expensive rented homes. Foreign-funded projects also suffer delays.
“There’s no strategic plan. It’s chaos,” lawmaker Mohamed Nuri Abed Rabbo said.
Poor planning allows mismanagement of reconstruction efforts and alleged corruption, making recovery slow and haphazard. In this environment, residents fear the remnants of Daesh will again exploit resentment.
“The city’s being rebuilt only on paper,” said Abu Ali Neshwan, a 52-year-old shopkeeper. “There’s no state here. Corruption’s everywhere.”
Abdelsattar Al-Hibbu, who is in charge of the municipal government — and is still recognized by Baghdad as such, despite the governor’s attempts to remove him — said the little money allocated to Mosul was being misspent.
“With the amount spent so far on removing rubble, the city could have been completely cleared by now,” he said by telephone. Of an estimated 7 million tons of debris, more than half remains, he said.
Hibbu warned last year that there was simply not enough money to rebuild.
The 2019 state budget allocates $560 million for Mosul’s reconstruction, according to two Mosul lawmakers. A UN adviser in the city said one estimated cost for one year of rebuilding work was $1.8 billion.
“It’s mostly international organizations getting things done. It’s ridiculous that money has to come from outside, with Iraq’s oil wealth,” the adviser said. “Authorities overspend and work takes ages. It should take a few days at most to demolish a large building and cost a few thousand dollars, tops.”
Fears that Daesh could re-emerge
Nawfal Hammadi Al-Sultan, governor of Nineveh province which includes Mosul, dismissed the allegations of mismanagement and overspending.
“Clearing rubble is not being done haphazardly ... but there are some neighborhoods that are so destroyed that there’s no solution,” he said. “People shouldn’t be asking why (reconstruction) is slow. They should be asking why hurry it?“
The clearance work looks anything but organized. Grubby children, who outnumber workmen, load steel rods and window frames onto donkey-drawn carts to sell at scrapyards.
Wheelbarrows are displayed outside shops for residents wanting to do their own work.
Some Mosul families are rebuilding by themselves. Younes Hassan, 67, borrowed $9,000 from friends to rebuild his purple-walled home at the highest point of the Old City, overlooking a bank of the Tigris river strewn with rubble.
“We’ve borrowed everything — there’s no money from the government, and certainly no bank loans,” he said.
Bank transfers to Mosul, which was a Sunni Islamist stronghold even before Daesh arrived, are banned by authorities over fears over the financing of extremists.
“Ten people live here, but my daughter hasn’t come back yet. She’s renting in east Mosul for $100 a month that she can’t afford,” Hassan said.
Hassan’s family is among those returning to west Mosul, which suffered the worst damage from air strikes in its crowded Old City streets.
Nearly 2 million Iraqis are still displaced by the fight against Daesh, according to a survey by REACH, a non-governmental organization. Many say they are not ready to go home because of the destruction and lack of services.
Residents worry that the longer it takes to fix Mosul, the easier it will be for groups such as Daesh to re-emerge and recruit. Conditions that helped Daesh take over Mosul and other cities in 2014, including corruption and the neglect of Sunni Muslim communities by a Shiite-dominated government, remain.
A policeman manning a makeshift checkpoint said he worried most for the children picking around in the rubble.
“They’ll be the next generation of Daesh — it thrives on corruption and chaos,” he said.


Grand Egyptian Museum symbol of Japan cooperation

Updated 27 min 10 sec ago

Grand Egyptian Museum symbol of Japan cooperation

  • The museum will house thousands of monuments and artifacts including mummies

CAIRO: The Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), set to open in 2022, is already a beacon for future Egyptian prosperity.

Built to showcase Egypt’s civilization and heritage, the museum will house thousands of monuments and artifacts including mummies, as well as housing a very important restoration center which will help in preserving Egyptian Pharaonic heritage.

It is hoped the GEM will boost tourism, and act as beacon of a new, forward-facing nation in the aftermath of several years of political upheaval, and centuries of losing its treasures overseas.

Egypt began work on the museum in 2008 at a cost of approximately $550 million, with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities funding $100 million, with the remainder facilitated through a loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), in addition to local and international donations.

Covering the third phase of the build, Japanese support was not limited to the loan, but extended to the financial and technical support of the museum’s preservation and conservation center. 

Moreover, Japan currently supports the museum’s archaeological database and the team chosen to cultivate and manage it. 

The JICA also organizes a program that holds several restoration training sessions in both Egypt and Japan, in partnership with the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties. 

Egypt’s Ambassador to Japan Ayman Kamel talked about the details of Japan’s participation in constructing the GEM.

“This project, which was launched years ago, is a success story in Egyptian-Japanese bilateral relations,” Kamel said.

BACKGROUND

It is hoped the Grand Egyptian Museum will boost tourism, and act as beacon of a new, forward-facing nation in the aftermath of several years of political upheaval, and centuries of losing its treasures overseas.

He added that Japan contributed in supporting one of the Egyptian centers specializing in monument restoration, providing “unmatched” Japanese eco-friendly materials and technology. 

Kamel predicted that following its inauguration, the GEM would be a source of pride not only for Egypt and Japan but also for the whole world.

“The final inauguration will take place in 2022 when all construction operations are completed.”

Japan’s Ambassador to Egypt Masaki Noke said the GEM was a “huge project that transfers heritage to the coming generations” and hailed Egypt for carrying out “this huge archaeological project.” 

Noke added that the Japanese were very happy to participate in this huge achievement which he considered of paramount importance “not only on the economic level but also on the human level in general.”

Around 42,000 Japanese tourists visited Egypt in 2018, adding to an increasingly large community of Japanese residents, and a sizable presence of archaeological missions working in the country.  

Egyptian archaeological expert Ahmed Kadry told Arab News that there are currently 10 Japanese archaeological missions in Egypt with universities and institutions.

Kadry said that the GEM’s inauguration in 2022 will change the perspective of museum tourism the world over, and hailed to work of Japanese and Egyptian archaeologists for their work in the field of diagnostic examination of monuments by using hand-held devices called XRFs, a primary examination machine using X-rays.

He added the results of such examinations provided useful information regarding the preparation of painted layers “which help in not only deepening the understanding of the condition of murals once they are restored but also in conducting more research to gain more knowledge in the field of archaeology.”

In July 2018, Dr. Tadayuki Hara, an associate professor and senior research fellow at the Institute for Tourism Studies, gave a lecture on how to improve the value of touristic assets in Egypt at the Japanese Embassy in Cairo, where he cited the importance of the GEM in Egypt’s future.

“Revenues can be created through great memories,” Dr. Hara said. “That can be achieved through the GEM, the project that Japan is taking part in constructing.”