'Water war' threatens Syria lifeline


When severe water cuts began to hit Aleppo province in early May, residents started referring to a “water war” being waged at the expense of civilians. Images of beleaguered women and children drinking from open channels and carrying jerry cans of untreated groundwater only confirmed that the suffering across northern Syria had taken a turn for the worse.

However, lost in the daily reports was a far more pernicious crisis coming to a head: a record six-metre drop in Lake Assad, the reservoir of Syria’s largest hydroelectric dam and the main source of water for drinking and irrigation to about five million people…

The primary reason behind the drop appears to be a dramatic spike in electricity generation at the Euphrates Dam in al-Tabqa, which has been forced to work at alarmingly high rates…

“When the Free Syria Army (FSA) captured al-Tabqa [in February 2013], they did their best to provide electricity. But for months we were getting about one hour of electricity per day. We had one month with no electricity at all,” Ahmed, a resident of Tel Abyad in al-Raqqa province, who would not give his full name, told Al Jazeera over Skype. “But when the Islamic State group took control, electricity came for eight hours [per day].”


I’m surprised we haven’t heard more about this aspect of the war, the battle for control of resources, other than food.


I’m a bit off-topic in saying this, but I recall reading that the dams in Turkey could, if Turkey wanted, cut off all water to most of Syria and Iraq if it wanted to do it. So far, Turkey hasn’t, but it sure could, and for months at a time.

And since the Euphrates goes through Iraq and much depends on it, if the Islamists are releasing a lot of water, it will have to be made up eventually, which will, one assumes, play havoc not only with electricity generation downstream, but with farming as well.


One possible explanation is that reporters for al-Jazeera have sources, and have the ability to go places, which Western reporters lack. However, I have seen a couple accounts of what ISIS did near Fallujah, Iraq earlier this year. I agree that this is an aspect of the conflict which is under-reported. The possible takeover of the dam at Haditha, Iraq is worrying.


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