Sat 21 Sep 2019

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Electricity Strikes, Damages Farmers’ Water Pumps in Homs

An employee driving a tractor in a fertilizer factory outside the city of Homs - 13 January 2019 (AP)

An employee driving a tractor in a fertilizer factory outside the city of Homs - 13 January 2019 (AP)

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Homs – Since the early days of the reconciliation agreement signed by Russia and opposition factions in the northern Homs countryside in August 2018, the Russian side has hinted that the Syrian regime’s government is in a dire economic situation. Accordingly, they claimed, the population should not be too hopeful about rapid improvement in the reality of basic services, and are expected to lend a hand to state institutions that are barely obtaining enough raw materials to operate.

Electricity is the biggest concern for residents of the northern Homs countryside. The restoration of electricity access breathes life into the farms, which are the residents’ primary source of livelihood. However, the fluctuating current has become a problem of its own for farmers, as water pumps can suffer serious damage or breakage at any moment as a result.

Over the past months, electricity grid repair workshops have arrived at the area, albeit with lackluster capabilities and insufficient amounts of cables and transformers. Still, promises have been made to improve the quality of access to the electric grid. However, almost a year after the return of the Syrian regime and its institutions to the northern Homs countryside, the grid has fallen into a state of almost total disorder, as transformers are feeding twice as many people as their capabilities allow. Moreover, the maintenance projects are seeing a severe shortage of workers.

Abu Nasser, a resident of Rastan, said that although more than a year had passed since the area agreed to a settlement with the Syrian regime, the state of electricity remains poor. Speaking to Enab Baladi, he noted that some cables were stolen two weeks ago, forcing the residents to take it upon themselves to procure new cables and connect them to the grid using new ones, while paying steep fees to electricity workers.

Instability of Electricity Harms Farmers

Electrical access has been restored to the majority of farms of the northern Homs countryside. This, however,  was seen as a curse by farmers in some cases. The instability of the electrical supply, and its abrupt drops in voltages often led to water pumps being corrupted and damaged.

Abu Ismail, a farmer from al-Farhaniyah al-Gharbiya in rural Homs, told Enab Baladi that his water pump has broken down eight times in the last three months, due to the instability of the electrical current and the sudden drops in its voltage.

He noted that it is not possible to cease the irrigation of the crops after they have been cultivated, as to avoid incurring further losses. This forces farmers to “patch the water pumps” (repair them) at a cost that exceeds 40,000 SYP – at the time of writing one US dollar equals 595 SYP. That is not to mention the effort required to extract the water pumps for repair send them down the well again.

Ahmed Abu Nasser, an electrical engineer and an electric repair foreman in the village of al-Zaafaranah, noted that with the return of electricity access, pumps break down more often compared to before, when diesel generators were being used. The frequent and sudden interruptions in the current increased the chance of damage to the water pump impellers, due to repeated water reflux. Damage to the coils, on the other hand, is the more prevalent and costly form of damage to water pumps – since they are made of copper. 

Abu Naser told Enab Baladi that arbitrary connection to the grid and the overbearing number of electrical cables led to a general voltage decrease. This also resulted in an uneven distribution of consumers among the transformers, since the Electricity Institution does not have a sufficient number of transformers. 

Consequently, a number of farmers opted for solar energy to avert the risk of damage to their water pumps. This was especially the case as solar panels proved their effectiveness in both the financial and practical sense, with almost no subsequent cost after installing them, except for casual and expected maintenance. 

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