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Lake Assad

Syria: water use as a weapon

Middle East - Africa di

Years of fierce war and a lack of investment and maintenance have taken a serious toll on water infrastructure across Syria. Years of conflict and lack of maintenance had a negative impact on the entire water supply in Syria.

It was inevitable that water became intermittently available or simply unavailable because of the conflict in many areas.
The Syrians have had to adapt by resorting to old wells, bottled water or tapping rivers whose water is not clean and sanitary. Humanitarian organizations attempt to solve the problem by trying to provide drinking water but much of the population has very limited access to the municipal pipes. Not surprisingly diseases spread in such a place where people are more and more exposed to water-borne pathogens.
In Syria even water can become an instrument of war, though rarely decisive. As a matter of fact, the resources of water accumulation are used to block access roads to the battlefields or are retained in dams to isolate entire areas even though this use has indiscriminate effects.
For this very reason, there have been numerous local agreements between rebel and government forces to maintain current water infrastructure to support the civilian population. For example, both loyalists and rebels have long maintained arrangements in and around the city of Aleppo and Damascus, so the water will continue to flow, often in exchange for promises of a ceasefire.

The Islamic state, on the contrary, has voluntarily breached dams and bodies of water in overflow in militarily strategic regions. Fact that is more evident in Iraq. But the Islamic state has largely tried to maintain water flows to support its efforts to play the role of a government.

There are three main areas of weakness in Syria that could be easily exploited; Any interference carried out on pumping stations of Aleppo, the Tabqa dam along the Euphrates River, and the water flow from the mountains to Damascus Qalamoun – especially from the source of Wadi Barada, north and west- could drastically alter water supply in Syria.

Fuel shortages hamper the effectiveness and productivity of existing pumping stations, reducing their outflow. The Tabqa dam generates electricity and ensures that the Lake Assad remains at sustainable levels. Electricity supply is a priority that is ensured by the preservation of water but the exploitation of this resource can cause an unsustainable drop in the water level of Lake Assad, threatening its long-term ability to provide water.

Finally, Wadi Barada is in a disputed area between the rebels and loyalist forces, and could be easily exploited and used as an instrument of future conflicts.


Monia Savioli


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