Middle East

Heat wave scorches Iraq as protracted political crisis continues | News

Baghdad, Iraq – Thousands of people gathered in Baghdad’s Green Zone for mass prayers on Friday under the scorching heat of Iraq’s summer.

Some people cover their faces with cloths soaked in water, others pour bottled water over their heads, and others carry umbrellas.

Some began to pass out as the sun beat down on a crowd of thousands packed into a largely uncovered square in central Baghdad.

“It was very hot,” Hafez Allobaidi told Al Jazeera after a prayer he called to Al Jazeera. Influential Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr.

“When the air was quiet, it felt like it was baking in the oven,” Allobaidi said.

“When the breeze came, it felt like a hair dryer had been blown in my face… with all its might,” he said.

“You thought you would get used to this kind of weather if you lived in Iraq, but no, humans shouldn’t live in this weather.”

A heat wave is sweeping across Iraq.

Temperatures soared to nearly 50 degrees Celsius almost every day in Baghdad, and nearly 53 degrees Celsius in the southern city of Basra. in a political crisis.

Iraq experiences heat waves of varying intensity each summer, and this year is no exception.

This year, however, the fervor has been intensified by a bitter political crisis. The parliamentary stalemate has paralyzed the country, including leaving Iraq without a government budget to properly allocate costs for essential services such as electricity supply.

Since last year’s parliamentary elections, Iraq has endured more than 300 days without a government.

“All for Muqtada!”

Al Sadr won the most seats in parliament, but was unable to form a government to his liking. He then withdrew his representatives from parliament, resulting in a political stalemate.

Al-Sadr recently toyed with the idea of ​​holding another election. His supporters stormed Baghdad’s parliament building last weekend and continue to occupy it, further complicating the political crisis.

Allobaidi, who attended Friday’s congregational prayers and helped storm parliament, said the strenuous exercise almost gave him a heat stroke.

When asked why he continued to protest in the scorching heat, Arobaidi raised his arm and replied, “All for Muqtada!”

Against the backdrop of the scorching heat and the overheating political crisis, there is an interim government that, according to law, cannot set a budget, including for the country’s vital power sector.

Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, who will now lead the government from May 2020, is very limited in what he can do with the state’s finances.

On May 15, Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court ruled that the current caretaker government can only implement projects based on the budget set last year and only on a monthly pro-rata basis.

Iraq, an oil-rich country, exports record amounts of oil, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the global oil turmoil have boosted the country’s income.

But budget allocation constraints due to the political stalemate have prevented the government from tapping into the wealth reserves amassed over recent months as ministries across the government battle budget shortfalls.

Iraq’s power ministry recently announced a state of emergency as the country struggles with peak summer power demand and inadequate power supplies.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare announced on July 30 that it had achieved an unprecedented level of supply with 23.25 gigawatts of power generation, which is still well short of the power needed to survive the harsh summer. Electricity demand in the summer of 2022 is expected to hit a record 34.18 gigawatts, according to the report.

“It can not be helped”

Gulf analyst Yasser Al-Malekhi, an energy economist at Middle East Economic Research, said the power shortage had several causes.

“[There are] Old power plants facing mechanical problems or power plants that were supposed to run on gas are now running on liquid oil,” Al-Malekhi told Al Jazeera.

“But at the same time, the ministry is not ready to meet summer demand because it has no budget.

“What are they going to do for the summer of 2023 when demand is high? Hundreds more days without a government?” he asked.

The lack of adequate electricity supply is felt throughout Iraqi society, with many deprived of the means to keep cool as temperatures rise.

In the southern provinces of Iraq, including Basra, on the evening of August 5, when temperatures remained above 40 degrees Celsius, the power lines in Basra that feed Nasiriyah suffered a failure and all power plants in Basra were completely shut down. stopped. The city was plunged into darkness and power was gradually restored in the early hours of 6 August.

Electricity shortages continue in the Tokyo metropolitan area. For example, in the Mustangsiriya district of northeast Baghdad, many residents said the national grid could only supply their homes with electricity for about six to eight hours each day.

For wealthy families, private generators can fill the power gap. The cost of running a generator varies depending on the amount of energy consumed, but many people who spoke with Al Jazeera said they could spend $100 to $150 a month for a relatively steady supply of electricity. says.

Ahmad Al Zhangana, who lives in the district, said he uses a generator to run the air conditioner at night.

“But that costs $150 a month. I only do this in the summer because it’s too expensive,” he said.

For the majority, paying such a high price for home power generation is not an option. They have to find a way to withstand the heat.

A boy splashes water on his face as people gather for a congregational service on Friday, August 5, 2022. [Alaa al-Marjani/Reuters]

Yaser Zalzaly sat with his wife and two children in Abu Nuwas Park on the banks of the Tigris River in central Baghdad after the midday heat began to subside.

After seeing the children playing in the water, Zarzary said the power supply in his home had been reduced to four hours a day.

It was nearly 8pm and the temperature was still 44 degrees Celsius.

“It’s just impossible to do anything inside the house,” he said, using a magazine as a fan to create a breeze.

“We come here every night just to escape the heat trapped in our house.”

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/8/6/heatwaves-scorch-iraq-as-protracted-political-crisis-grinds-on Heat wave scorches Iraq as protracted political crisis continues | News

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