May 3, 2009

Babil Province reconstruction projects.

This is from the MNF-I website and is a project supported by our PRT.

Renovated Vocational Center Increases Job Training in Babil Province
Saturday, 02 May 2009

BABIL — Community leaders, media and Coalition representatives recently gathered here for the grand opening of the newly renovated $5.4 million Iskandariyah Vocational Technology Center.

Dr. Reyad Hassan, executive general manager of the Iraqi Ministry of Labor, officiated the grand opening with the assistance of newly-elected Babil provincial leaders.

The Vocational Center and Industrial Complex, located 25 miles south of Baghdad, was once the industrial jewel of north Babil province, boasting such facilities as the State Company for Automotive Industries (SCAI), the State Company for Mechanical Industries (SCMI) and Hateen munitions.

During April 2003 all these facilities were ransacked and torched by looters, leaving behind burned out shells of what had been home to 25,000 employees.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers oversaw the Center’s upgrade, utilizing Iraqi contractors. The three-phase project included renovating seven dorms, a classroom building, an auditorium and mechanical shop. The Iraqi crew, consisting of 200 local workers, finished the project three months ahead of schedule. Of those workers, 50 were recent graduates of the center.

When the Center’s renovations began in 2007, the school was offering a limited curriculum for an enrollment of 30 students. This year the center is expected to train and house 4,000 students in a variety of occupational specialties including hair dressing, sewing, administration, clerical, computer maintenance, masonry, electrical, carpentry, welding, computers, and auto mechanics.

“The renovation project became a reality because of the partnership between city and provincial government leaders, Coalition forces, the Babil PRT, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Iraqi construction crews, along with unwavering support from the local community,” said Col. Jack Drolet, district commander of USACE’s Gulf Region South district, at the grand opening. “The young men and women who come to this Vocational Center will learn skills, laying a foundation for future prosperity. We’re honored to be part of this effort.”

Many look to the Center’s renovation as the first step to improving the local economy. According to Pradeep Patnaik, Babil PRT’s senior economic advisor, the Center “is critical in our efforts to attract foreign investment to Babil province.”
Because the center is able to provide needed training, more than five international firms are considering manufacturing contracts with SCAI and SCMI industries, Patnaik added.

Currently SCAI is building prefabricated housing units, oil refineries, buses, construction equipment, greenhouses, and much more. “We are working with local and international businesses so that there will be enough work for everyone,” Patnaik said. (By Alicia Embrey, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

“I feel our history is coming back”

The New York Times has a good article that captures the challenges -- political and bureaucratic -- of how to handle the reopening of the Babylon Ruins. Excerpts:

After decades of dictatorship and disrepair, Iraq is celebrating its renewed sovereignty over the Babylon archaeological site — by fighting over the place, over its past and future and, of course, over its spoils.

Time long ago eroded the sun-dried bricks that shaped ancient Babylon, the city of Hammurabi and Nebuchadnezzar, where Daniel read the writing on the wall and Alexander the Great died.

Colonial archaeologists packed off its treasures to Europe a century ago. Saddam Hussein rebuilt the site in his own megalomaniacal image. American and Polish troops turned it into a military camp, digging trenches and filling barricades with soil peppered with fragments of a biblical-era civilization.

Now, the provincial government in Babil has seized control of much of Babylon — unlawfully, according to the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage — and opened a park beside a branch of the Euphrates River, a place that draws visitors by the busload.