UNDP-IQ-Falluja bridge
The restored Fallujah Iron Bridge. Photo: UNDP Iraq/2018

 

On a hot, windless summer’s day, a crowd gathered on the banks of the Euphrates to celebrate a significant moment for the region. The Fallujah Iron Bridge, the iconic landmark around since the 1930s, was finally re-opening.

Fallujah suffered greatly under ISIL occupation for well over two years. It is estimated that well over half a million people fled the city, and those who stayed behind were forced to live under a brutal regime. Countless people were killed, businesses closed, and vital infrastructure was destroyed. Among the casualties was the Fallujah Iron Bridge – blown up by ISIL, cutting off the movement of people and goods to and from the city.

 

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A whole section of the bridge was destroyed by ISIL. Photo: Anbar Governorate/2016

 

As soon as Fallujah was liberated in June 2016, the Government of Iraq, with support from UNDP, immediately got to work stabilizing infrastructure, restoring basic services and creating conditions for people to return to the city. UNDP targeted three key bridges in need of extensive repair and committed to fully restoring them.

Spanning some 270m across the Euphrates, and with one its sections completely destroyed, the restoration of the bridge was a complex challenge. The whole bridge was in a state of disrepair and in need of total rehabilitation.

Construction work began in October 2017. However, it had to stop in February 2018, when explosive material was discovered both on the riverbank and below the waterline in the center of the bridge. With the help of the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), a team of specialized scuba divers were sent to safely dispose of the explosive material.

 

 

The rehabilitated bridge in now complete and re-links the city center to north-west Fallujah and beyond. At the official opening, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Marta Ruedas said:

“The rehabilitation of roads and bridges is a vital element to restoring communication and enabling people and businesses to get back to normal. UNDP is proud to work with local and federal authorities to achieve this impact on the lives of Iraqis here in Fallujah and around the country.”

 

UNDP-IQ-DSRSG Marta Ruedas speaking to reporters at the event
DSRSG Marta Ruedas speaking to reporters at the event. Photo: UNDP Iraq/2018

 

With over 2,400 projects across the country – 700 in Anbar governorate alone – the work of UNDP’s Funding Facility for Stabilization is focused primarily on improving access in liberated communities. Improving access to education. Improving access to towns and cities. Improving access to electricity and clean running water. Without an improvement to this access, it will remain difficult to encourage Iraqis to return home.

The restoration of the Fallujah Iron Bridge was made possible thanks to the generous support of the Government of The Netherlands. This investment in critical infrastructure and services sets the stage for longer-term reconstruction and development activities, and supports the Iraqi people and their government to achieve sustainable peace and development. 

 

UNDP-IQ-The completed Falluja bridge prior to opening
The completed bridge, prior to opening. Photo: UNDP Iraq/2018

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