Traffic lights in Baghdad resume functioning, for 1st time in 19 years since US invasion

Heavy traffic in Iraqi capital causes problems mounting to armed fights between drivers, traffic police.

Traffic lights in Baghdad resume functioning, for 1st time in 19 years since US invasion

Traffic lights are set to function in the Iraqi capital Baghdad again after a 19-year suspension following the US invasion.

Most traffic lights on some streets of Baghdad have been destroyed because of the chaos and violence caused by the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Some bullet-scarred traffic lights still show signs of the damages caused during the occupation period.

The daily traffic problem in the densely-crowded Iraqi capital has been affecting peoples’ lives. Many people, who have to arrive at the workplaces at 9 a.m., need to leave their homes at 5 or 6 a.m. due to traffic problems.

Traffic police in Baghdad are on duty on the streets and intersections where the traffic lights do not work. The chaotic environment on the streets can even turn into armed fights between the traffic police and the drivers from time to time.

In some parts of Baghdad, besides the traffic police, army soldiers also erect checkpoints and undertake the task of directing the traffic as well.

Last week, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi ordered traffic lights to be reactivated and in response, the Baghdad Traffic Department and the Metropolitan Municipality have also started to work on re-activating the traffic lights in the capital.

The prime minister’s instruction covers other cities affiliated with the central government.

Disrupted since 2003

"Traffic lights have not seen light since 2003. ... As the Traffic Department, we are trying to ensure that the traffic lights on the streets work properly. We wish the citizens to comply with this decision," Tarek İsmail, the head of the Iraq Traffic Department, told Anadolu Agency.

Pointing out that only 87 of the 155 intersections in Baghdad are in working condition, Ismail said all other lamps are broken down.

"Traffic police at intersections and streets will continue to keep watch and manage problems in traffic. Previously, nearly 10 traffic lights were repaired throughout Baghdad, but later they became dysfunctional due to neglect," he said.

Need for new roads

Rasul Ali, a taxi driver from Baghdad, emphasized the importance of making the traffic lights in his country work again and said other solutions should be produced as well.

"Order and law in every aspect of life is a beautiful thing. We, the drivers, are charged monthly taxes for the repair of traffic and roads, but the condition of the roads is obvious,” he said, asserting that “the construction and repair of the roads in Baghdad have not been done since the Saddam (Hussein) era.”

“The roads were built according to the system of the 1970s," Ali noted, stressing the necessity of new roads.

He added that "the population has increased in Baghdad and the number of vehicles is much higher than before.

"If new roads, intersections, and tunnels are not built, the implementation of traffic lights will make no sense."