Iraqi civilian and military dignitaries broke ground on the Army Canal Rehabilitation Project in Baghdad's Sadr City district yesterday.

The groundbreaking ceremony marked the start of a three-year, US$ 50 million reconstruction effort along the al-Kanat Road and surrounding areas.

The Army Canal, which runs for just over 24 km from Adhamiyah in northeastern Baghdad to Rustimiyah in the southeastern area of the city, was built in 1959 by the then president of Iraq Abd al-Kassem Quassim.

It was meant to provide fresh drinking water and irrigation to the people of northeastern Baghdad, but after years of damage and sediment build-up, it has fallen into disrepair.

Construction for the refurbishment project is officially scheduled to begin on 17 December.

Speaking at the ceremony, Naeem Abub Misayd al-Kabi, deputy mayor of Baghdad, said, "This marks a source of hope for the Iraqi people and an example of what the future holds."

The Army Canal rebuilding is the first part of the Iraqi Government's ambitious three-year plan to improve the capital. In conjunction with the canal project, the Sadr al-Kanat pump station will be refurbished, several parks and recreational areas will be built, numerous shops and stores will be created, and trees and plants will be sown along the canal.

The project also has the potential to create more than 50000 jobs, while improving essential services for the city's residents.

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