Water crisis in NE Syria’s Hasakah yet to be solved

HASAKAH, Syria (North Press) – It has become a usual reality in the city of Hasakah to see women, children and men all engaged in transporting water from tankers provided by organizations in the city’s neighborhoods. Everyone is holding a gallon or a pale differing in size as to the person holds it.  

In other neighborhoods, water tankers are seen as water is pumped to tanks above the roofs, while in other neighborhoods, cars are seen conveying water from well dug by locals to their houses. 

What is more striking is children under the age of 10 and women exceeding 50 participate in transporting water under the scorching heat of summer. The small barrels are rolled either with their hands or feet until they reach home.   

In spite of repeated promises made by officials of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), however, up to date, there has been no breakthrough made for the problem of water in Hasakah, that is to find alternatives to the Alouk Water Station in the countryside of Sere Kaniye (Ras al-Ain) that is controlled by Turkish forces and their affiliated armed opposition factions, also known as Syrian National Army (SNA).  

Alternatives doomed to failure

One of the alternatives, according officials of the AANES was the Himmeh wells in northwestern Hasakah. It was expected to meet 50% of Hasakah’s need of drinking water.

The project was launched by the AANES late in March 2020. It was said then that 50 wells would be dug in the Himmeh station, in just 29 days, however, putting the project into operation was delayed up to August and water was cut just days after that.  

The second alternative was to supply Hasakah with the Euphrates water from the countryside of Deir ez-Zor.  

Early in 2021, the AANES embarked upon the project which was scheduled to be finished within just three months with a cost estimated at a million and a half USDs, according to an earlier statement made by the AANES.

However, according to officials, the work was hurdled by a lot of obstacles the most notable one was the encroachments made by farmers and people of southern areas by inducing water from main tubes to their houses and agrarian lands. Besides, tubes were impeded at various points that delayed the project to be finished at the date set. 

At the time, supervisors promised to lead the project to the shore of safety in April, however, after 20 months to the start of the project, while pumped for two hours to the al-Salihiye and al-Mift neighborhoods, water has not yet delivered to the vast majority of the people of Hasakah.

Dried well

The water crisis in Hasakah was felt after Turkish forces and their affiliated factions controlled the Alouk Water Station in Sere Kaniye since October 2019. The Alouk Station used to be the main water supplier to Hasakah and a number of its sub-districts.  

Earlier, Aldar Amed, Co-chair of the Municipalities Committee in the Hasakah region, told North Press, due to the Turkish control of the Alouk water station and lack of pumping enough wells push them to ration water to the city neighborhoods. 

According to the ration adopted, the city of Hasakah is divided into five sections each one is supplied with water once in two weeks and (lately) once in three weeks. 

In the last two years, people dug wells in front of their houses. However, such water is undrinkable due its bitterness and saltiness. The majority of these well have dried due to the drought, according to locals.   

Ali al-Salem, 43, from the Nashwah Gharbiyah neighborhood, says he needs some 30.000 or 40.000 Syrian pounds (SYP) per week to buy water from tankers. Al-Salem added, “There are families that pay 100.000 SYP in a month to get water.”

Water crisis exploited

Amid this reality, Abbas al-Eleiwi, from the Nashwah Gharbiyah neighborhood complains of what he describes “exploitation” by owners of water tankers of the water crisis as some neighborhoods sometimes lack water for more than three weeks. Abbas says the water has not reached his house for nearly a month.  

“Owners of the water tankers set the prices at the discretion, five barrels [1.000 liters] cost almost between 7,000 and 8,000 SYP. While in alleys and neighborhoods hard to reach they demand 10.000 SYP,” he added.    

Khaled Jamal, 39, owner of a water tanker said, “Compared to breakdowns of the tanks, the prices set for selling water are not so high.”  

He added that he bought fuels from the black market that cost him a 1.000 SYP per liter. He sells five barrels of water at 6.000 or 7.000 SYP to earn some 10.000 SYP a tank. “However, I pay 12.000 to the owner of the well.”

There are other expenditures, changing the oil of the engine costs 350.000 SYP. This is paid once a week, not to mention breakdowns and tires that are changed from time to time, according to Jamal.  

Reporting by Sozdar Muhammad