HRW accuses Turkey of worsening water crisis in Syria
Turkish authorities are worsening a water crisis that has given rise to a deadly cholera outbreak spreading across Syria and into nearby countries, Human Rights Watch said on Monday.
“This devastating cholera outbreak will not be the last water-borne disease to impact Syrians if the country’s severe water problems are not immediately addressed, particularly in the northeast,” said Adam Coogle, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Turkey can, and should, immediately stop aggravating Syria’s water crisis.”
As of November 1, the World Health Organization had recorded 81 deaths from cholera in Syria and more than 24,000 suspected cases.
The United Nations estimates that two-thirds of Syria’s water treatment plants have been damaged in the conflict that has fragmented Syria for the last ten years..
Since February 2021, Turkey has severely restricted the flow of water to the Syrian-held portion of the Euphrates river, well beneath the 500 cubic meters stipulated by a 1987 agreement, HRW said, exacerbating the crisis in Syria.
In the past year, Turkey has denied responsibility for reduced water levels, noting that it is facing its own water shortages. However, a report by an international nonprofit organization said that between January and May 2021, as water levels were sharply declining in Syria’s reservoirs and nearly causing significant damage to hydroelectric dams, levels at Turkey’s Ataturk Reservoir, one of several operational dams on the Turkish-held portion of the Euphrates, were climbing.
HRW claimed it has documented Turkey’s failure to ensure adequate water supplies from the Allouk station to Kurdish-held areas in Northeast Syria in March 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, 49 Syrian groups condemned what they described as Turkey’s “intentional interruption of water” at the station.
“We have entire families coming in sick, the health facilities are overcrowded, people are lying on the floor,” one aid worker told HRW, adding that while UN agencies had promised to deliver medical supplies including antibiotics and intravenous fluids from Damascus, no supplies had arrived as of October 7, a month after the outbreak was declared.