Baghdad: Five years ago, Iraqi taxi driver Osama Mohammed traveled to Baghdad about six times a day. The traffic is very bad today, so I feel lucky to be able to do three things. “The first thing we see in the morning is traffic,” said 40-year-old Mohammed, explaining his “tiredness” in dead-end traffic that endures across the vast capital.

He is now worse as he often declines fares. “He spends two hours on the road, so you should forget about it,” he said. “Your day ends with traffic jams.” Experts point out many reasons for the growing turmoil. The post-war mini-boom has brought more people and cars, but the war-torn infrastructure hasn’t changed much.

Security checkpoints, a legacy of years of war and sectarian conflict when Baghdad was shaken by frequent car bombs, are still added to traffic jams. Most importantly, political paralysis and the national sector, suffering from widespread corruption, have hampered road and rail projects that could bring relief.

According to Baghdad spokesman Mohammed Al-Rubay, the number of vehicles in the 8 million city has increased from 350,000 before 2007 to more than 2.5 million today. The research group’s Future of Iraq estimates that the fuel that each vehicle wastes daily from idling in a traffic jam in Baghdad is equivalent to driving 20km. This problem exacerbates the increasing frequency of sandstorms, climate change-related trends, and air pollution in countries already suffering from the heat of summer above 50 degrees Celsius.

The concrete blast walls on the roadsides of Baghdad may be almost gone, but decades of war have left behind a legacy of mockery and dilapidated infrastructure. The country suffered from the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, years of sectarian battles, and the fight against the Islamic State group’s jihadists, who were finally defeated in 2017. ..

Since then, entirely new areas and skyscrapers have emerged, including a futuristic new central bank headquarters designed by the company of the late Iraqi British star architect Zaha Hadid. Due to its relative stability, domestic migration, especially the influx of workers from the poor South, is accelerating. However, the capital still has no trains or trams, few buses, and no robust public transport.

According to Rubaye, the metro rail system “reduces congestion by 40%”, but for now this is a distant dream. One such project was conceived in 2011 by the French company Alstom. And in 2020, a letter of intent to develop an elevated metro system of 14 stations of 20km was signed. According to Faleh Al-Jazairi, former Governor of Baghdad, the project plan has already spent about $ 45 million, but so far there has been no visible impact.

Large-scale infrastructure projects are stalled in the political turmoil in Iraq’s dysfunctional parliament. Since Iraq held a legislative election in October, parliamentarians have been unable to elect a new president and government due to political debates among the powerful Shiite factions. In countries ranked worst in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, large grafts exacerbate omissions and waste.

As a result, rush hour traffic continues to stagnate on the Abnawas Road, the capital’s main road along the banks of the Tigris River. A police traffic officer who named him only as Hussein complained that many roads were “unmodernized” for decades, and now “seems to have more cars than people.” ..

In Iraq, known in Arabic as the land of two rivers, some suggest that water transportation on the Tigris may provide the coveted remedy for urban transportation problems. But for now, only a handful of tour boats swell and offer views of another wartime heritage, the highly fortified “Green Zone” district of government buildings and embassies. .. The outlook for the river’s public transport system seems unlikely, and one resident, Yasser Al-Saffar, commented. “Everyone living in the Green Zone will see such a project as a threat,” he said. – AFP

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