Al-Wahda Dam: The last refuge for fishing enthusiasts in Daraa

Al-Wahda Dam is located at the lower Yarmouk Valley on the Syrian-Jordanian border - Nissan 18, 2024 (Enab Baladi/Halim Muhammad)

Al-Wahda Dam is located at the lower Yarmouk Valley on the Syrian-Jordanian border - Nissan 18, 2024 (Enab Baladi/Halim Muhammad)


Enab Baladi – Halim Muhammad

Al-Wahda Dam, located at the lower Yarmouk Valley on the Syrian-Jordanian border, continues to be frequented by dozens of fishermen despite its security risks. With most water bodies drying up in the rural areas of Daraa, fishing enthusiasts are persistently searching for any viable aquatic sources after the lakes of Muzayrib, Zeyzoun, al-Ajami, and the dams of Daraa, al-Alan, and Sheikh Miskeen have dried up.

Al-Wahda Dam has become a common fishing spot where specific locations are leased to investors who restrict amateurs’ fishing activity.

Firas Mahamid, 35, says the decrease in general aquatic landscapes such as lakes and the drying of some dams have diminished fishing spots in Daraa. This year, the filling of Al-Wahda Dam presents an opportunity for local fishermen to engage in their hobby.

Mahamid notes that harsh weather conditions are no hindrance to his favorite hobby. During the winter months and cold nights, he camps with friends near the dam.

Daraa has 16 dams, mostly located in Western Daraa countryside. The total capacity reaches 92 million cubic meters, according to the director of Water Resources, Engineer Ahmad Mohsen, as stated in an interview with Al-Baath newspaper, the voice of the ruling party in Syria.

In Quneitra, six dams are noted: Al-Hajjah, Al-Mantara, Kodna, Bariqa, Al-Raqad, and Ghadir al-Bustan.

Simply a hobby

Firas Mahamid and a group of his friends from Daraa al-Balad resort to fishing collectively, using motorcycles due to the rugged terrain and as a less expensive alternative to using gasoline required by cars.

From the neighboring town of Zeyzoun near the Yarmouk Valley, the motorcycles arrive laden with gear, fishing equipment, and small tents on unpaved downhill roads. The fishing trip lasts from a day to two, where Mahamid and his companions use the calm nature and disconnection from the external world for their camping, given the lack of communication facilities in the valley’s depth.

Abu Omar al-Jahmani, 50, another member of the group, views fishing as a hobby dependent on luck, mentioning that he usually doesn’t catch more than two kilograms of fish and sometimes up to five kilograms, similar to other group members. He added that buying fish from the market would be more cost-effective for his family, but he enjoys fishing and the pleasure of camping.

By the water, Mahamid pitches his tent and lights an old lantern inside, while al-Jahmani lights a stove for boiling tea, and a group member begins grilling the freshly caught fish.

Dam risks

The Syrian-side roads connected to Al-Wahda Dam are rugged and used by shepherds, Firas Mahamid explained. He described the route as requiring driving skills due to dangerous descents and areas adjacent to perilous gorges, adding that the dam is about three kilometers away from the town of Zeyzoun.

The risks aren’t just due to rough roads; the Jordanian border guards frequently patrol the area with ground defenses fearing smuggling activities, especially at night. They often fire gunshots, a concern for fishermen present during smuggling operations, as their interactions with the Syrian side are met only with bullets, according to Mahamid.

Jordan has repeatedly announced seizures of narcotics stating their origins from Syria, including a recent April 8th incident where two armed smugglers were killed during a confiscation.

Deeper within the dam, some fishermen use nets, a more effective method than rod fishing, and some utilize boats to pull their nets and collect the fish.

Al-Wahda Dam, a joint structure between Syria and Jordan, sits on the Yarmouk River. The dam stretches 110 meters with a storage capacity of 115 million cubic meters.

Under a 1987 water investment agreement on the Yarmouk River between Syria and Jordan, Jordan is entitled to 200 million cubic meters of water annually from the river.


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