The citizens and authorities in what is potentially Iraq’s wealthiest oil boom town are upset. They say oil companies are causing environmental problems and Baghdad is getting rich while they’re missing out, according to this article from NIQASH.
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The southern Iraqi region of Basra is estimated to hold about two thirds of all of the country’s oil reserves. It is also home to the giant oil fields of Rumaila, Zubair and West Qurna which also produce a significant amount of natural gas.
And late last year the central government in Baghdad signed new contracts for further exploitation of these resources with multi-national energy companies, Shell and Mitsubishi. Around 12 international oil companies are currently working in Basra province, including Russia’s Lukoil, Italy’s Eni and China’s National Petroleum Corporation.
Yet the people of Basra feel they have seen barely any benefit from the natural resources in their home region. Despite the oil and gas in the area and the region’s potential to be Iraq’s wealthiest, “citizens’ living standards are still dire, unemployment is widespread, infrastructure is missing and reconstruction is not going anywhere,” local tribal leader, Falah al-Asdi, said.
Additionally, al-Asdi said the companies involved in Basra were not addressing any of these problems. For example, Basra was beginning to experience a housing shortage because land was being reserved for oil and gas exploration and extraction.
“These companies were supposed to take the initiative and implement both construction and service projects. But up until now all we have seen them do is pay lip service to these ideas,” al-Asdi complained.