Kurdish authorities blame Turkey for water shortage in north-east Syria

Allouk water station, under Ankara's control since 2019, is the only source of drinking water for approximately 1 million people

A Syrian child carries containers to collect water provided by Unicef in Al Hasaka. AFP
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Kurdish authorities in north-east Syria have accused Ankara of creating a "disaster area" in Al Hasaka region by cutting off the supply from Allouk water station, which is under Turkish control.

Issa Younes, the co-chair of the water directorate in Al Hasaka, told local media on Monday that Turkey had suspended the flow of water from Allouk more than 40 times in just eight months.

Allouk is the only source of drinking water for approximately 1 million people in north-east Syria, and Al Hasaka in particular.

The facility lies in the city of Ras Al Ain, known in Kurdish as Sere Kaniye, which since 2019 has been under the control of Turkey and its allied Syrian National Army faction.

“The city of Al Hasaka and its villages, the town of Tel Tamr, in addition to the IDP camps of Washokani and Sere Kaniye, are disaster areas where life is almost impossible,” Mr Younes said.

In 2019 Turkish and SNA forces launched the “Peace Spring” military operation, occupying Ras Al Ain and its surrounding area, previously controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. The water station was damaged during the operation, cutting off the water supply to surrounding areas.

“Turkey is weaponising water to reach its political ends,” Mr Younes said.

Turkey has repeatedly denied these accusations. However, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that Turkey continues to use water as a weapon of war in the area, while locals have no choice but to buy water or leave.

Last month the Allouk station stopped functioning due to restricted access for maintenance and repair and a lack of electricity. This has resulted in a severe water shortage across Al Hasaka region.

The UN has warned that restricted access to water is causing a humanitarian crisis in north-east Syria.

Martin Griffiths, the UN's undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs, who returned from a visit to Damascus last week, said Syrians are facing “profound humanitarian challenges" and have "less food on their plates, little fuel in their stoves, and limited water in their homes".

Turkey agreed in 1987 to allow an annual average of 500 cubic metres per second of water across its border into Syria. However, in recent years it is estimated that Ankara has only allowed about half of that to flow into the country.

Under international law, parties to conflicts are obligated to ensure civilians have access to adequate water and sanitation.

Updated: July 04, 2023, 1:33 PM