Water Infrastructure Attacked In Turkey Invasion Of Syria

DAMASCUS, Syria

UNICEF reports that water supply to Al-Hasakeh, Syria, partially restarted 21 October after repairs to the electric power supply at the Allouk (Alok) water pumping station. The facility had been out of operation since airstrikes by Turkish military two weeks previously when Turkey launched a military incursion against Kurdish people in the north of the country.

The offensive followed the United States’ troops withdrawal from the region earlier this month which effectively opened the door for Turkey’s offensive.

Allouk water station – which normally provides water to 400,000 people, is currently functioning at 50 per cent of its normal capacity. Only half (15 out of 30) of the boreholes that supply the station are operational. The other half are in areas where there is ongoing violence. Electricity needs to be restored to the boreholes in order for them to function.

Water provision to Al-Hasakeh city is estimated at around 70-80 per cent compared to levels before the escalation of violence. One-third of the city’s water supply still comes from an alternative water source – the Al Himme water pumping station – but this supply cannot be sustained for more than a month unless Allouk becomes fully operational again, or there is a lot of rain. Repair teams will need continued access to Allouk in order to bring it back to maximum capacity.

Nearly two weeks after the start of the hostilities, over 176,000 people have been displaced, including nearly 80,000 children, and critical civilian infrastructure has been damaged. Apart from the Allouk water station, power lines have been damaged and at least four medical facilities are reported to be affected.

Campaigning group “Save the Tigris” has issued a statement calling upon Turkey:

  • To immediately halt the invasion of northeast Syria;
  • Not to use water and water infrastructure as weapons of war and to refrain from targeting water installations or waterways;
  • To guarantee safe access to water as a fundamental human right which should be guaranteed for the population of northeast Syria;
  • To adhere to the UNEA-3 resolution ‘Pollution mitigation and control in areas affected by armed conflict or terrorism’ of the United Nations Environment Assembly.
  • We call upon the international community:
  • To use all diplomatic means to pressure Turkey to halt its invasion of North East Syria;
  • To monitor the conditions of northeast Syria’s rivers and water infrastructure in order to document any damages or war crimes;
  • To hold accountable any party which inflicts humanitarian crises due to the targeting of waterways and water infrastructure through the UNEA-3 resolution ‘Pollution mitigation and control in areas affected by armed conflict or terrorism’ of the United Nations Environment Assembly.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) drew attention last week to the increased the risk of outbreaks of infectious diseases. Even before the current escalation in conflict, acute diarrhoea and typhoid were two of the most reported diseases among people in northeast Syria in August 2019. Ongoing displacements, overcrowded living conditions, and limited access to safe water and sanitation services, will likely lead to an increase in the number of people affected by water-borne diseases.

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