Diyala streets: connecting people and boosting business

Posted August 26, 2019

On the banks of the Diyala River, the provincial capital of Ba’aqubah swelters at a mid-summer high of 44 degrees Celsius. As the wind picks up over the warmer months, pedestrians battle the dust and dry heat; moving around the city can be tough.

In an area still recovering from significant destruction during ISIL occupation and liberation, UNDP Iraq is working to improve mobility for residents by helping to lessen the burden of moving around in this desert-like climate. The Iraq Crisis Response and Resilience Programme has rehabilitated 29 roads across Diyala Governorate since 2017 – with 10 in the capital alone.

As we walk down Al-Hassan Road, a bustling street in central Ba’aqubah, it becomes clear that the hot, black asphalt – rolled just two months prior, has increased more than just vehicle and foot traffic.

Boosting business

Havel is welcoming more potential buyers in to his office thanks to the improved mobility of residents. Photo Credit: UNDP Iraq/ Vincent Haiges/ 2019

“The new street is clean and beautiful. Since the rehabilitation of the road, the prices of homes on this street have increased and the demand for buying and selling retail spaces and homes has risen; so more people enter my store.”

Havel, has owned his real estate agency for one year. Situated on a busy stretch of Al-Hassan Road, he estimates a 15% increase in foot traffic thanks to the new curbed roadside.

For Havel’s neighbor Mustapha, owner of a small mechanic workshop, business has also improved. “My shop is small, so I must do my repairs on the road,” he explains. “Before they rolled the asphalt, the dust made it difficult to work under the vehicles, and during the rain, the mud made it virtually impossible.”  Mustapha’s job is now much easier, and the repairs are completed faster, so he is able to welcome more customers in throughout the day.

Photo Credit: UNDP Iraq/ Vincent Haiges/ 2019

Across town, we enter Gatoon Al‐Razi neighbourhood on Door Al‐Mandali road. With UNDP Iraq support, this street was leveled and compacted and it too is helping small business owners to boost their income. “The road has become much more accessible for vehicles and people”, explains 25-year-old, Saif. “Previously, community members tried to repair the road themselves, but were not successful.”

Since the road was leveled, Saif is able to keep a much cleaner a and well-stocked shop, “Not as much dirt and mud is being walked in from the street, and my deliveries arrive right to the door – the truck wasn’t able to get this close before due to the rough road surface,” describes Saif from behind the counter of his small mini-market. “It’s important that I keep my store stocked with products.”

Photo Credit: UNDP Iraq/ Vincent Haiges/ 2019

Creating a space for community

For the 8,000 students of Ba-aqubah Technical Institute, the upgraded roadways were also a very welcome sight. Marwan, a member of the Institute’s Administrative staff, saw a noticeable reduction in absenteeism after the road works were completed, “Somewhere close to 1 in 5 students were skipping class – especially in winter and rain – due to the mud. Many have no choice but to travel on foot and would rather to stay home than arrive to class caked with mud or risk becoming sick,” describes Marwan. “And, if students did attend class on those wet days, they would walk all the mud indoors, so you can imagine how much happier the cleaners are now.”

“Thanks to the rehabilitation of Al-Hassan road, students are able to walk to class, rain, hail or shine,” says Marwan. “There are very few who don’t make it anymore.”

Marwan and his colleagues stand by the gated entrance to Ba’aqubah Technical Institute. Photo Credit: UNDP Iraq/ Vincent Haiges/ 2019

For 38-year-old Anram and his family, the issue of dirt and mud was also resolved when the street was rehabilitated. “My family has lived in this home since 1974, and my grandmother tells me that last time the road was renovated was in the 1980’s. Now, the time and effort required to clean our home is reduced. When we return from the street, we aren’t walking in mud and dirt, which is great for a home of 39 people…there is a lot of coming and going”

Anram stands with his 90-year-old grandmother in the entrance to their family home. Photo Credit: UNDP Iraq/ Vincent Haiges/ 2019

Back in the quieter street of Door Mandli Katoon Road, 23-year-old university student and 10-year resident, Ali is welcoming more frequent visitors thanks to the improved road surface. “People can now access our homes via car. Before, the holes were so big, you could only get to a friend’s home by foot,” he explains. “the conditions would get so bad in winter and rain, that children often had to stay home from school.”

Photo Credit: UNDP Iraq/ Vincent Haiges/ 2019

Neighbours meet on Door Mandli Katoon Road. Photo Credit: UNDP Iraq/ Vincent Haiges/ 2019

Keeping the city clean
As teams of street cleaners make there way through the district, residents are now noticing that they move faster on Al-Hassan Road. “Cleaning used to be more difficult. People would throw their rubbish out of cars or as they walk by. Now that Al-Hassan Road is a clean, paved street…they don’t throw it,” explains Mohammed and Ala, dressed in fluoro vests as they collect what trash has been left by the curb.
“The cost for cleaning on this street has reduced 50% since the rehabilitation has been completed,” adds, Head of cleaning services for Tahrerneighbourhood, Ahmed.

Street cleaners collect trash from inside the traffic island on Al-Hassan Road. Photo Credit: UNDP Iraq/ Vincent Haiges/ 2019

Photo Credit: UNDP Iraq/ Vincent Haiges/ 2019

Together the roads rehabilitated in Diyala with UNDP Iraq’s support are enabling improved mobility for approximately 195,200 residents and their families in Ba’aqubah, and better business for roadside shop owners. Seeing paved roads has also given residents a renewed sense of pride in their city, resulting in less trash on the roadways.

These projects were made possible with the generous funding of the Government of Germany in coordination with the Governorate office of Diyala.

The Iraq Crisis Response and Resilience Programme (ICRRP) promotes the recovery and resilience of communities vulnerable to multi-dimensional shocks associated with large-scale returns and protracted displacement of Iraqis and Syrian refugees.  This is achieved through a medium-term programming, integrating crisis management capacity building, rehabilitating basic service infrastructure, livelihood recovery and social cohesion.