Telling the story of the Darbandikhan Dam and its power station, a station senior staff member speaking on the condition of anonymity says that the project was tendered to the Japanese Mitsubishi Corporation in the early 1980s. "The total budget allocated for the project was $3.6 billion; however, due to some technical issues, the budget was decreased later." And station management believes that some of the technical issues the station currently faces are due to that budget cut.
During the construction period, work was held up several times due to war and unrest in the country. Mitsubishi Corp., the developer of the project, finally completely abandoned the project and left the country in 1990 when the Iraqi regime began the Gulf War and a number of the company's staff were detained. After that, the company never returned to complete the unfinished job, even despite UNDPs efforts to persuade them. Mitsubishi Corp. told UNDP that due to the loans owed to the company by the Iraqi government, they would not do that.
Samad Yassin, the station director, said in an interview with the Globe that his team had to use whatever skills and equipment they retained from the company to finish the project in any way possible, and thanks to their commitment, skills and hard work, the station is now running despite technical issues and difficulties they face in sourcing spare parts.
Recently, the World Bank allocated some $40 million to renovate both the Darbandikhan and Dokan dams. The funds are spent through the Kurdistan Regional Government's Ministry of Electricity to contractors.
"At the first phase, an Italian company was contracted to repair and change some parts of the station that were obsolete," said Yassin as he watched one of the units operate loudly at full capacity. "One of the good things they have done was to change the management and control system to a computerized system. A second tender was given to a company to renovate the distribution network of the station."
Explaining that the company is about to begin work on the networks soon, Yassin complained that the budget allocated for the Darbandikhan station is insufficient. "While Darbandikhan [station] has three units and Dokan [station] has two, the budget is equally shared between the two, which is not fair."
Yassin also explained to the Globe that they used to have an issue of waste of voltage, which they overcame by installing a syncro-condenser system, which stabilizes the voltage while saving water: "It works on its own without water."
Yassin, who has worked there for 15 years, explained: "In the past we were feeding 132 volts to Kalar, but the town was receiving only 125-128 volts, which was insufficient."
According to Yassin, their local technicians installed the syncro-condenser system on their own, which means that they have technicians who deserve respect--and the Kurdish people should respect their hard work.
However, Hussein Qadir, another staff member at the station with a quarter century of experience there, says that people do not think of them this way. "Government does not care about us, so what should we expect from people?" asked Qadir. "They only care how many hours the station generates power, and whenever there is a failure and the station stops production, they immediately call and ask about the problem without thinking about the people behind this and the efforts spent by the unselfish staff here."
The director and staff of the station complained that the ministry does not care about their lives, health or safety, and does not listen to their demands. Nevertheless, they still choose to do their best to provide a maximum amount of power supply to the people and have never threatened to stop the system or hold generation to force the ministry to respond to their demands.
One other issue that Yassin complained about was the excess number of staff he has for the duties at the station. He argues that he has more than double the number of staff he actually needs to run the station. With 158 staff members in his payroll. "Another issue is a number of our staff are women who are not fit for the harsh situation and heavy technical duties the station demands."