Infrastructural impact of the walls – Waste and Slums

“Our neighbourhood is a big dump, the awful smell is really hard to stand.’’ said Ibtesam Aziz, who is a resident of the poor Shaab neighbourhood of east Baghdad(ICR, 2010). Waste has been piling up in Baghdad since 2003, jeopardizing public health. The two contributing factors were the increasing number of slums and the difficulty of implementing a systematic waste collection scheme.

Garbage piled up in Baghdad
(Salman, 2010)


It is unavoidable to link ‘slums’ with ‘poor hygiene’. Before the arrival of the US Army, three-fourth of the residential neighbourhoods were made up of Iraqis from various religion backgrounds and ethnicities (Planning in Baghdad: how years of conflict have shaped the design of the city, 2015). Then, segregation of security zones was established, aiming to create zones with only one religion and therefore, many of the residents were forced to move out from their houses and live in the zone where they ‘belonged’. Thousands of families lost homes over few months. They were named the Internal Displaced Person (IDP). In order to for the IDP to find a place to stay, slums and squatter settlements were formed in abandoned building and parks(ICR, 2010). Not long until issues of hygiene came out in these dense ad-hoc living spaces. The IDPs were busying working for income and neglected other stuff such as disposal of waste. Trash was thus dumped everywhere near the area such as rivers and water pipes. Bacteria and bad fungi in the waste would then spread out through the water to other areas, causing diarrhea, typhoid and other sorts of diseases.


Low accessibility of the zones made it even harder to address the trash piling issue. With the blast walls separating the zones, it is next to impossible that a citywide waste collection scheme can be implemented since the trash trucks cannot travel through all the zones with ease due to the serious congestion.


The municipal had tried to tackle the problem but in vain. They employed small trucks and hand-drawn carts to collect waste, which turned out to be ineffective because the solution could not catch up with the speed of waste disposal. Some areas required households to pay for the collection of garbage, meaning that the impoverished area could not enjoy the service. Giant trash containers were used in some areas too but they were stolen(ICR, 2010).



If waste collection were placed at a higher priority by the US, there would have been a solution. After all it was the zoning made the people IDPs, limiting the access of areas, which ignited the sanitary problems. The people in the slums have nowhere to dump their waste; households cannot afford to pay for the collection of garbage; systematic collection of waste throughout the city does not exist. What can be done is to clear the slums. Solely spending money on collecting trash will only stop the problem temporarily, but clearing the slum by urban planning within the small zones could be a way out. Renewal projects of the poor area can be held; high quality of dwelling can be provided(Jacobs, 2016). With better road systems, waste collecting infrastructure and better dwelling, people will be motivated to stay and develop a systematic way to dispose waste among them. But such ideal solution requires financial support from the US, or else the situation will just be a vicious cycle—the IDPs cannot pay for waste collection or do not bother to dump their waste properly, the trash piles up, the living condition becomes worse, it would be even harder for the poor to improve their quality of life, slums remain slums.


Only if the US government cares about the waste issue.




ICR (2010). Baghdad’s Trash Piles Up. Issue 343. [online] Available at: [Accessed 12 Dec. 2017].


Jacobs, J. (2016). The death and life of great American cities. New York: Vintage Books, p.378.


Planning in Baghdad: how years of conflict have shaped the design of the city. (2015). [online] Available at: [Accessed 12 Dec. 2017]


Salman, D. (2010). [image] Available at: [Accessed 12 Dec. 2017].


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