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Fears of ‘humanitarian disaster’ as Turkey cuts off water supply to northern Syria

KURDISH authorities fear a humanitarian disaster in northern Syria where Turkey is accused of deliberately inducing a drought by cutting off water from the Euphrates River.

Water levels have declined by up to two-thirds, with Syrian farmers in Qara Qawzaq — just outside Kobane — warning that their livelihood will be seriously hit by the shortages.

Electricity used to power water pumps to irrigate their land has dropped from a supply of 18 hours a day to just 10 as authorities try to avert a devastating drought.

“The low level of water in the Euphrates will cause diseases,” local farmer Mohammed al-Haj warned.

“There will be infections, and the low level of water will be damaging to the people, because it causes power cuts.”

Rojava Dam spokesman Jihad Bayram explained that Turkey and its allied militia had cut the supply of water to the region by decreasing the flow through its own dam system.

“We are supposed to receive 500 cubic metres of water [per second], but this has decreased to 160,” he said.

“We have decreased the provision of public electricity to 10 hours [per day] to consume the water economically.” 

Last week Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) President Ilhan Ahmed hit out at Turkey for deliberately withholding water supply.

“The Euphrates river has provided water to the people since the beginning of civilisation. Turkey with its upstream dams intentionally decreased the water level today to cause a real drought in Syria,” she said.

Turkey launched a second invasion and subsequent occupation of northern Syria in October allied with jihadist militia from the Free Syrian Army.

It has been accused of a litany of war crimes including the use of chemical weapons and the extrajudicial execution of Kurdish politician Hevrin Khalef.

Turkey has used water as a weapon since 2015, controlling the regional supply through an extensive system of dams constructed over the last decade.

The situation has deteriorated since last October with Turkey and its allied militia controlling the town of Serikaniye, which supplies water to around half a million people in the Hasakeh region.

In March, Unicef warned that Turkey’s water blockade posed a serious threat following the outbreak of coronavirus, with fresh water and handwashing seen as crucial.

“The interruption of water supply during the current efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus puts children and families at unacceptable risk,” it said in a statement.

Efforts are currently underway to rebuild infrastructure, including waterpipes, damaged during Turkey’s bombing campaign.

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