Water scarcity: Annual summer crisis in Qamishli 

Tank trucks in al-Hasakah (Nextep)

Tank trucks in al-Hasakah (Nextep)

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Qamishli – Majd al-Salem

Without feasible government solutions for many years, several neighborhoods in the northeastern city of Qamishli still suffer in the summer from a lack of water supply through the main network, which forces hundreds of families to buy water from mobile tankers at high prices.

Adnan al-Sheikho, 50, lives in the Mwazafeen neighborhood in Qamishli. He told Enab Baladi that his neighborhood has been suffering since the beginning of the summer from water scarcity and that he, along with most of his neighbors, are forced to buy water at high prices.

The cost of filling the tank, with a capacity of 1,000 liters, reached about 18,000 SYP (about 5 USD), while its cost at the beginning of this summer did not exceed 10,000 SYP.

Al-Sheikho added that his family of six consumes the entire water tank within five days, despite attempts to rationalize, which means that he needs at least 100,000 SYP (about 25 USD) per month to afford water.

According to what Enab Baladi monitored, the water scarcity crisis affected many neighborhoods of the city of Qamishli, including Mwazafeen, al-Arbawiya, al-Bashiriya, and parts of al-Khaleej neighborhood.

Khaled al-Mansour, 55, a resident of the al-Arbawiya neighborhood, told Enab Baladi that he resorted to installing two additional tanks, at the cost of approximately two million Syrian pounds, each with a capacity of 1,000 liters, to store the largest possible quantity, with the frequent and long-term interruptions of the main water network. 

Al-Mansour explained that not all residents of the neighborhood can adopt the same solution because it is expensive on the one hand and because the neighborhood includes a large proportion of those who live in rented houses, and they cannot bear additional burdens, on the other hand.

Short-term solutions

In light of the futility of government moves to solve the problem of water shortage during the summer in most areas in Syria, which is repeated annually, the people are forced to find emergency and temporary solutions through individual initiatives or through some organizations and associations operating in the region.

According to information obtained by Enab Baladi, several charities in Qamishli worked to dig wells for some neighborhoods, such as the well that an organization dug in the Zaytoniya neighborhood, to secure water that is used for washing and bathing only.

While those who live in multi-story buildings have dug wells at their own expense after sharing the costs among themselves, the problem with these wells is that they are usually intended for washing and household matters only, so they are not suitable for drinking.

Dozens of villages in the countryside of Qamishli city, especially the southern ones, suffer from water scarcity due to long power cuts. Most of the reservoirs in the area require at least four hours of continuous electricity to operate the pumps needed to raise and distribute water.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) has operated, relying on solar energy, dozens of wells on which hundreds of thirsty villages depend in the southern countryside of Qamishli.

It is not possible to cover all villages and address the problem of water shortage in them because the process is expensive, as operating a single well requires panels and equipment worth between 10,000 and 20,000 US dollars.

Most of the villages that lack drinking water depend on transporting water either through shared tanks or by private cars, according to what Enab Baladi monitored.

Projects that do not solve the problem

The problem of water shortage is particularly frequent during the summer, without any of the authorities controlling the area moving to find radical solutions to it.

Despite the government’s declarations, which have been going on for years, about working to improve the water situation in Qamishli, these announcements have not yet reflected positively on the people.

On 8 August, Ahmed Mukhailif, the head of the Qamishli Water Unit affiliated with the Public Water Establishment in the al-Hasakah governorate, announced that the regime-run body had taken a set of measures, which led to “improving the water situation in the city of Qamishli.”

Mukhailif’s statement did not address the real situation of drinking water and the suffering of the residents of Qamishli city and the surrounding countryside.

“The improvement is due to the continuous maintenance of the stations, monitoring of wells, and solving the problem of poor pumping in the city, specifically in the Mwazafeen neighborhood, through the implementation of maintenance projects in cooperation with international organizations,” Mukhailif said.

According to Mukhailif, the city of Qamishli includes three water stations, which are the al-Hilaliya plant (which includes 152 wells with an abundance ranging between 40 and 75 m3 per hour), the Jaghjagh plant (6 wells), and the Awaija plant (16 wells), in addition to 12 wells in other neighborhoods.

A section of Qamishli city is also fed with water from the water line drawn from the al-Safan dam in the city of al-Malikiyah. The length of the water network lines is about 475 kilometers, covering the entire regulatory plan of Qamishli.

 

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