Iraq News
Transportation

Iraq on track to open airports in cities liberated from ISIS

By Khalid al-Taie

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Construction work at the Kirkuk International Airport, seen in this photograph posted on October 1st, 2019, is nearly complete, provincial authorities said on May 17th, 2020. [Kirkuk Airport]

Authorities in Iraqi cities liberated from the tyranny of the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) are working to either reopen airports that were damaged by the war or build new ones.

In Anbar province, the local government confirmed that it is in the process of opening bids for the construction of Anbar International Airport.

The Anbar Investment Commission has finalised all the requirements necessary for the construction of the airport, which will be located at the 35 Kilo area in western Ramadi, commission chairman Mahdi Saleh al-Noman said.

"An area of 3,000 acres has been allocated for the construction of the airport," he told Diyaruna on May 17th. "We carefully chose the location as it is close to the international highway and railways."

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Local officials in Anbar province discuss mechanisms to start construction of the Anbar International Airport in a photograph posted on January 28th, 2020. [Photo courtesy of Anbar province media office]

Over the past year and a half, the commission has overcome all obstacles to the construction of the airport, the most significant of which was obtaining official approvals from the relevant authorities and allocating and receiving the plot for construction, he said.

"After overcoming the obstacles, we gave the green light to consultancies to formulate an initial plan and scope of work for the project," al-Noman said. "We hope this stage will end soon so we can launch the project as an investment opportunity."

Al-Noman said he expects construction of the airport to start by the end of this year.

The airport will be used for air cargo services as well as commercial flights, he said.

Once completed, it will be the first airport in Anbar province, al-Noman said, adding that it will help advance development and reduce unemployment.

Other advantages include attracting international companies and capital to invest in Anbar, especially since there is an abundance of natural resources -- such as natural gas and phosphate fields.

Anbar also has as an industrial sector -- including cement and glass manufacturing -- that can be developed, al-Noman added.

Mosul airport reconstruction ready to take off

In Ninawa province, the local government confirmed that reconstruction of Mosul's airport -- which was previously cleared of explosives in a collaborative effort by Iraqi and American companies -- will start soon.

The airport had been significantly damaged during the period when ISIS took over Mosul and the ensuing battles to liberate the city, Noureddine Qablan, head of the Ninawa Investment Authority, told Diyaruna.

The terrorists left the airport riddled with landmines and explosives, he said.

"Following the clearing of explosives, the local government officially took over the airport and we are now collaborating with the federal government to commence rehabilitation work," Qablan said.

"We received two reconstruction bids that were announced last year," he said. "The first was submitted by a group of French companies that involves providing a soft loan to Iraq and another from Turkish companies based on investment into and operation of the airport."

Although provincial authorities announced last July that it was awarding the contract to the French group, Qablan said "this decision is not final" as it still requires final approval from the central government.

"As an investment authority, we have completed all the technical and logistical preparations to launch the project as soon as possible and we hope it will advance development in our province and counter the effects of terrorism," he said.

Kirkuk airport construction in final stages

Meanwhile, the Kirkuk airport construction plan "has entered its last stage at a completion rate of 98%", according to Marwan al-Ani who heads the Kirkuk media office.

"There only remains minor work before the airport can be up and running," he told Diyaruna May 17th.

Iraqi officials in September 2018 announced a plan to turn Kirkuk airport from a military into a civilian airport by adding new facilities that would make commercial aviation and air freight possible.

"Opening the airport will provide air transport for nearly two million people from Kirkuk and a similar number from nearby provinces," al-Ani said.

He underscored the importance of the project in improving the economic and investment prospects of Kirkuk province and helping develop the areas that were affected by terrorism.

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