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Residents of al-Hasakeh at risk due to water shutoffs amid Coronavirus outbreak

Children in al-Hol camp in the countryside of al-Hasakeh, east of the Euphrates River - 25 June 2019 (Enab Baladi )

Children in al-Hol camp in the countryside of al-Hasakeh, east of the Euphrates River - 25 June 2019 (Enab Baladi )

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The residents of the al-Hasakeh city and several areas in its countryside are at risk of the new coronavirus outbreak because of frequent water cuts to their central water station “Allouk”, in the countryside of Ras al-Ain city, which is under the control of  the Turkish-backed opposition factions. 

Humanitarian organizations warn of frequent water cuts, which affect nearly 600,000 people in north-eastern Syria, amid growing fears of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government of the Syrian regime and local and worldwide humanitarian organizations accuse Turkey of cutting off the water supply to the people of al-Hasakeh.

On the other hand, the local council of Ras al-Ain city accuses both the government of the Syrian regime and the Kurdish Democratic Forces (SDF) of cutting off the electricity needed to operate the water station.  

Water trucking as an alternative to pumped water

The Director-General of the al-Hasakeh Water Corporation, Eng. Mahmoud al-Okleh said that to alleviate the drinking water scarcity in al-Hasakeh province, the corporation is providing residents of al-Hasakeh and population centers in the district of Tel Tamer with drinking water from the wells of “Nafasha” through water trucking, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported in late February. SANA accused the Turkish army of being responsible for the closure of the “Allouk” water station.

According to SANA, the Allouk water station consists of 30 artesian wells, which were invested in 2013. Allouk supplies the city of al-Hasakeh and its western countryside with approximately 175 thousand cubic meters of fresh and drinking water per day, which is the need of the city of al-Hasakeh and its suburbs and the town of Tel Tamer and its villages.

During the Turkish offensive on north-eastern Syria, code-named Operation Peace Spring, which started on 9 October 2019 and ended on 22 October of the same month, Turkey and  Turkish backed forces took control of the cities of Tel Abyad in rural Raqqa and Ras al-Ain in rural al-Hasakeh.

Humanitarian organizations accuse Turkey of water cuts in Syria

Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned against using water as a weapon of war, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic in a report published on 31 March about the risks of cutting water to the city of al-Hasakeh and its villages.

“Turkish authorities have been cutting off the water supply to regions most under strain in Syria,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. He called on the Turkish authorities to make every effort to resume the supply of water from the “Allouk” water station to these areas. 

HRW said, according to reports of humanitarian organizations working in the region, that alternatives to water pumping from the Allouk water station are not enough. Water trucking provides less than 50 percent of the population’ s needs and is too costly.

The statement warned that the interruption of water pumping at Allouk drove people to obtain water from unsafe sources, putting them at high-risk mainly amid efforts to combat the coronavirus spread.   

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) denounced in a statement released on 23 March, the water shutoffs to areas of north-eastern Syria at a time the globe is making efforts to curb the outbreak of the coronavirus.

The UNICEF urged not to use water stations for military or political gains, “because children will be most affected.”

The response of Ras al-Ain’s local council to recurrent water cuts 

Mari al-Youssef, the head of the local council of Ras al-Ain city, said in an interview with Enab Baladi, that the interruption of pumping at the Allouk water station is due to power outages; Both the Syrian regime-held “Tishreen Dam,” and the SDF-linked al-Suwaidia area do not provide electricity to the water pumping station. 

Al-Youssef added that the power line supplying the Allouk water station has many loads, as it provides all the villages east of Ras al-Ain city with electricity. Consequently, the power line has a constant voltage drop and breakdowns that contribute to the stoppage of the pumping station.  

Commenting on the negotiations that started earlier between the Turkish and Russian sides to solve the problem of the Allouk water station, al-Youssef said, “no agreement has been reached yet, and the Syrian regime, the Russians and the SDF are still procrastinating and lying about the issue of delivering electricity to the region.”

Al-Youssef highlighted that the Syrian regime has not yet agreed to provide the al-Mabroukeh power station with 30 megawatts of electricity from the “Tishreen Dam” so as to supply the electricity station of Ras al-Ain with electricity to ensure the continuity of pumping water at the Allouk water station and the delivery of electricity to all areas of  Peace Spring (a reference to the areas that Turkey took control of in its offensive on northern Syrian in 2019, named Operation Peace Spring).

 

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