Al-Hasakah water crisis.. between Turkish blackmailing and absent solutions

Munzer Mohammad

Photo: Sherzad Sedo

“We have to buy water, and wait a long time to secure several barrels, if the situation continues in this way, perhaps we will not be able to secure that quantity as well,”. With these words, “Ahmed Hassan”describes his condition, the situation of the people of his city Hasaka, and the lack of water.

“This is how we are, if we will not die of hunger, we will die of thirst,” he says, standing under the burning sun and sweat pouring from his forehead, and his eyes watch the cars that go across the street, so he may hint at a water selling tanks.

“Spring of Peace” or the hotbed of drough and thirst?

“Alok station” is a source of water supply for about one million people, in the city of Hasaka and its countryside, Tel Tamr, Abu Rasin and its countryside, in addition to three camps (WashuKani, Al-Arishah and Al-Hol) which contain about 95 thousand displaced people and refugees.

The process of supplying water in Al-Hasakah is subject to Turkish extortion, as Ankara has demanded the Russian forces on more than one occasion to supply the areas of its control in Serê Kaniyê (Ras Al-Ain) and Girê Spî (Tel Abyad) and its countryside with electricity from Tishreen Dam, according to the commander of the Russian forces in a press statement in early March 2020.

Despite the self-administration response to the Turkish request, according to what its maintenance workshop announced, to supply the power station in Mabrouka with electrical supplies, Turkey did not honor its pledges to pump water to the city of Hasaka.

Photo: Sherzad Sedo

“We were ready many times to go with the Russian forces to the station to carry out maintenance work, but this was not done, due to Turkey’s demand to supply the Mabrouka station with specific quantities of electricity,” says Joan Abdullah, who is one of the workers in the maintenance department at “Alok station” while talking to SHAR Magazine.

The political activist “Mohammed Kamal” assures to SHAR Magazine that Turkey “seeks to create a state of suffocation among the people to make them stand against the self-administration”, and believes that these practices “reveal the truth of Turkey’s control of the area called (Spring of Peace), and clarifies the falsehood of human pretexts that Turkey used to invoke.

According to Mohammed Kamal, that region has turned into a base for creating crises and suffering for the people of northern and eastern Syria, as they demand electrical current, at a time when the region itself suffers from a shortage, and above that, they prevent the flow of water to the dams.

In light of the frequent interruption of water from the “Alok station”, people of Al-Hasakah depend on the wells distributed in the city’s countryside and on the road of Tel Tamr – Al-Hasakah. In light of the issuance of new decisions from the self-administration to organize the drilling, where doubts from the people about the effectiveness of drilling these wells.

Every family has a painful story with a water outage

Water was cut off from the city of Hasaka and its countryside for more than ten days, in some other neighborhoods, water did not reach it permanently before that interruption period, due to the lack of the quantity that comes to the city, coinciding with the unregulated rationing of electricity, which causes the residents to be deprived of filling their water tanks at homes.

“Because of the electricity power cuts coinciding with the period allocated to pumping water to our neighborhoods, we do not benefit anything, and the water tanks remain almost empty, because we were not able to operate the water pumps to strengthen the water pumping,” Lawand Salim, a resident from Marsho neighborhood confirmed during his talk to SHAR Magazine.

While Um Aras, who seems to have lost hope in obtaining water from her street, was checking the surrounding neighborhoods, she may succeed in filling her plastic containers with water. She tells SHAR Magazine: “This is our situation every day, and most of the residents of these neighborhoods which suffer of dry days during the summer”.

As for “Fatima Mohammad”, despite her poor financial conditions, she resorted to buying mineral water bottles, saying: “The price of one bottle is 500 syrian pounds, which is equivalent to the price of half a barrel of water that we buy if we find the tank.”

The water crisis this year coincided with the emergence of the Corona epidemic, in light of fears that it would spread among the local population, and what increased its burden was the fear of transmission of other diseases due to lack of hygiene and sterilization operations due to lack of water and lack of water in many times

Suffering under the burden of exploitation

The water crisis in Al-Hasakah and its countryside is not represented in the small quantities that reach the neighborhoods. But even in the sale of water, there is a problem that the local population suffers from: The exploitation of people’s need by tankers, as the price per barrel varies between 1,000 to 5,000 pounds in the absence of supervision.

“As a result of the increasing demand to buy water, many tank owners take advantage of the needs of the people, because the price that has been approved is 1,000 pounds per barrel, but some people ask for a price more than that, which may reach 5,000 pounds at times,” says Mohammad Al-Ali to SHAR Magazine.

“At a time when the self-administration did not take any action against the violators, in light of the inability of the tanks designated by the Water Corporation to meet the needs of the residents,” says Lawand Salim.

A Syrian woman fills containers with water amid shortage in the predominantly Kurdish city of Hasakeh in northeastern Syria on March 5, 2020. (Photo by Delil SOULEIMAN / AFP)

What are the solutions?

Despite the complaints lodged by the locals, in order to find solutions to the water crisis, things got worse after the monopoly on the sale of water, according to some appeals to SHAR Magazine, who refused to reveal their names, and stressed that the well water sold by the tanks is “not suitable for drinking.” because of its high salinity.

This was denied by the joint presidency of the Directorate of Drinking Water in Hasaka “Sozdar Ahmed” during an interview with the SHAR Magazine, confirming that the wells supplied in the area (Al-Hamma) near the city are “safe to drink after conducting chemical and physical analyzes.”

Ahmad” said: “As a result of the closure of the crossings due to the ban imposed over the past months, we have not been able to complete the project that is being prepared. There are 20 wells from (Al-Hama) plant that will be ready to pump water within a month.”

For his side, Eng. Nidal Mahmoud, the joint head of the Water Corporation in Hasaka, during his talk to SHAR Magazine, confirmed that the self-administraion “started to establish a water strategic project, which is the largest of its kind in northern and eastern Syria, and will enter service at the beginning of next year.”

With Al-Hasakeh Water Corporation affiliated to the self-administration trying to end the water crisis, most of the people whom SHAR met met affirmed that it was “insufficient emergency solutions and that the crisis will be repeated in the coming period.