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Three months to build a city - the heat was on

ICE news

IMAGINE BUILDING a mini city, applying all the civil engineering knowledge you possess in foundation design, structural engineering, sewage treatment, water purification and road building.

Then imagine procuring and constructing it all in a war-torn country in temperatures up to 60¦C.

This was the job carried out by the 62 Works Group of the Royal Engineers, led by commanding officer Colonel John Pelton and Major Tim Walton.

The trials and tribulations of providing infrastructure support to 11,000 UK troops in Iraq were revealed to ICE East Midlands earlier this month.

In just three months, the team dismantled camps in Kosovo and brought them to Iraq where they were rebuilt.

However, the camp buildings had to be adapted for the harsher Iraqi climate - hot summers and wet winters - by fitting curved steel over-roofs. These would encourage convection currents under the roof to assist cooling in the summer and keep the rain out during winter.

Basic sewage treatment plants were built near each camp and diesel generators brought to provide power so the local network would not be affected. And 3km of road was constructed using asphalt from a local plant applied by local contractors.

Water resources were managed by 521 Specialist Team Royal Engineers. It constructed five 30m deep wells incorporating reverse osmosis plants to desalinate groundwater. Once installed, local contractors maintained the facilities.

Movement was heavily restricted in Basra, said Pelton, which was the most difficult aspect of working in Iraq. Half their vehicles were damaged during riots in August last year.

Nature also caused its own difficulties - during the height of summer metal was too hot to handle and work stopped between 10am and 3pm.

Pelton said that it was easier to work with local contractors than use UK engineers.

'In Iraq we could hit the ground running because local contractors were familiar with the area, particularly with soil conditions, ' he said.

'After a while local contractors came out of the woodwork as they realised we paid well and on time.'

However, even by enforcing rigorous tendering, the daily wage rose from $1/day to around $15.

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