Decreasing level of Euphrates threatens lives of residents in Syria’s north

RAQQA, Syria (North Press) – On Tuesday, Health Committee of the Civil Council of Raqqa of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), warned of catastrophic effects due to the low level of the Euphrates River.

Ali Abdul-aziz, co-chair of the Health Committee in Raqqa, said that the low level of the river’s water will seriously affect the public health in Raqqa, and other areas of northeastern Syria.

The AANES was first formed in 2014 in the Kurdish-majority regions of Afrin, Kobani and Jazira in northern Syria following the withdrawal of the government forces. Later, it was expanded to Manbij, Tabqa, Raqqa, Hasakah and Deir ez-Zor after the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) defeated ISIS militarily.

“The decline in the level of the river will turn the river into swamps, which will form a fertile environment for insects that cause many diseases,” Abdul-aziz added.

The low level of the Euphrates is related to Turkey’s ongoing seizure of the river’s water, in addition to the climate change and the two years of drought which the area went through, according to North Press previous reports.

Since April 2021, it has been observed that the river level has significantly decreased, reaching less than 200 m³ per second.

“Diseases such as meningitis, intestinal infections and leishmaniasis has recently increased in the region after the reduction of the river’s water,” Abdul-aziz told North Press.

He pointed out that if the decline of the Euphrates River continued during the coming period, the region will turn into a health and environmental disasters spot.

The frequent water cut-off forced the residents to use unsafe methods to store water.

He considered that the region is facing a serious dilemma, and that several measures must be taken to rationalize the consumption of the Euphrates River’s water for irrigation through the use of modern irrigation methods.

Turkey currently stores water in five dams on the Euphrates River, the largest of which is Ataturk Dam with a storage capacity of 48 billion m³.

By doing this, Turkey deprives northeastern Syria of its share of water violating the international agreement they signed with Syria in 1987 which stated that Syria’s share of water coming from Turkey is 500 m³ per second.

According to official reports, the level of flow towards Syrian territory has decreased over the past years to less than 200 m³ per second, which is less than half of the agreed amount. 

The problem of the Euphrates river in both Syria and Iraq requires international political intervention to put pressure on Turkey to pump the agreed amount of water to the both neighboring countries, according to the Health Committee.

Reporting by Ammar Abdullatif