Several organisations in Syria are calling for urgent action to address the water crisis in northeast Syria. They urge the Turkish government to share the Euphrates water resources equitably with Syria and Iraq, and to ensure the Alouk Water Station continues to meet the needs of affected communities.
The signatories also call on all parties involved in the ongoing conflict in the region to fulfil their obligations to provide all Syrians with access to sufficient and safe water, and to remove water resources from political rivalries.
The regions of northeastern Syria are facing an unprecedented water crisis, the worst in nearly seven decades, according to the statement by the 110 Syrian organisations, as the effects of climate change, reduced rainfall, rising temperatures and the ongoing conflict leave local communities reeling.
The crisis began when Turkey cut off the water supply from the Alouk station, the only source of water for Hasakah and the surrounding areas, in the town of Ras al-Ayn (Serêkaniyê). In July, the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) declared Hasakah a disaster area in response to Turkey’s continued interruption of the water flow.
The water level of the Euphrates has dropped significantly, by five metres. This drop has been attributed to Turkey’s actions, which have restricted the river’s flow to just 200 cubic metres per second. This move is a clear violation of the 1987 water-sharing agreement signed with Syria and Iraq under the auspices of the United Nations.
The 1987 agreement explicitly states Turkey’s permanent obligation to maintain a constant flow of 500 cubic metres of water per second from the Euphrates to Syria.
As a result, more than four million people, including some one million internally displaced persons (IDPs), are facing catastrophic impacts on their lives and livelihoods.
The devastating effects of the water crisis are far-reaching, including food insecurity, a decline in livelihoods and a surge in migration as people search for more viable resources. Poor water quality and inadequate sanitation and hygiene, particularly in makeshift camps for displaced people, have also led to serious diseases, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis.
The UN estimates that since the start of the conflict in 2011, two-thirds of Syria’s water treatment plants, half of its pumping stations and one-third of its water towers have been damaged, severely hampering the country’s ability to provide clean and safe water to its population.
The organisations also call on the UN to intervene quickly and to find a sustainable solution to the water crisis in northeast Syria and throughout the country. They call for the establishment of an impartial and independent monitoring mechanism for the Euphrates River and all transboundary water resources shared by Syria, Turkey and Iraq.