26 august 2015

David Poinard: his experience in Iraqi Kurdistan

The advance of Daesh (Islamic State) in Iraq has caused massive population displacements since June 2014. The autonomous region of Kurdistan has had to cope with an influx of refugees fleeing the combat zones. After a first operation with the French Red Cross in the summer of 2014 to assist displaced people, the Veolia Foundation has again mobilized by participating in an assessment mission in the Bardarash camp led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. David Poinard, technical engineering service manager with Eau Grand Lyon, went there in August.

David Poinard: "Arriving in Erbil, you are confronted with this amazing vision: 3000 tents set up on concrete slabs, all encircled by barbed wire and protected by armed guards... "

Témoignage de David Poinard

In August 2015 you went to assess the situation regarding drinking water in the Bardarash displaced people’s camp. What were your first impressions when you arrived there?

David Poinard: It is striking! Arriving in Erbil, you are confronted with this amazing vision: 3000 tents set up on concrete slabs, all encircled by barbed wire and protected by armed guards... The area is particularly arid and it is impossible for this mini-city, which has sprung up in just a few months, to leave you indifferent. But after the initial emotions, you very quickly throw yourself into the work.

Your mission was to assess access to clean water. What issues did you identify?

D.P.: Lots of areas for improvement were noted at each stage in the water supply, the distribution network in particular revealed several defects, especially related to infrastructure design. I therefore listed everything that needed to be changed and tried to prioritize areas of work so the people living there will benefit as quickly as possible.

You have already carried out missions abroad, but in a different development context in Africa...

D.P.: Yes, and it's very different, especially in human terms. In Senegal, I was confronted with people who had never had access to water before we arrived and the development project was launched. In Bardarash, they are displaced persons: one was a doctor in an Iraqi city shortly before, everyone had had satisfactory living conditions and access to clean water before hurriedly leaving their city, their lives... In short, it is quite unsettling, especially because the reality of the conflict is never far away...

Témoignage de David Poinard 2

You left to go there without hesitation?

D.P.: No I didn’t hesitate... but nevertheless I had lots of questions. Like many people, I only knew the area through what I had read in the newspapers - a description of a place of armed conflict. My family and work colleagues were not particularly comfortable. And then, with the support of the Foundation and the answers it gave, my family were convinced.

And you would go back without fear?

D.P.: On-site safety checks are part of the landscape. You come across armed guards, dogs, mirrors, gates... The climate is slightly claustrophobic at first, but then you get used to it. People learn to live with it and are very welcoming. But Iraq is still a country where there is an armed conflict, people’s stories keep us in line: the risk is there and we have to stay alert. I would go back without hesitation, a mission like that is a personal and extraordinary cultural experience. You learn humility, each day measuring how lucky you are to live in a peaceful country.

Témoignage de David Poinard 3

David Poinard, aged 38, is a trained hydrogeologist. A Veolia Group employee since 2001, he works within Veolia Eau as Eau Grand Lyon technical engineering service manager.