Statement by Save the Tigris Campaign, 12 October 2019
On 9 October, Turkey started a military offensive in northeast Syria. A move which will have disastrous consequences for the region. This armed conflict will have a direct impact on populations, ecosystem and post-conflict recovery of the area. Concerns mount of a humanitarian catastrophe.
Water is at risk of being used as a weapon in this conflict: The first reports have appeared of the targeting of water infrastructure: Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) reported on 10 October that Bouzra Dam, providing water to the city of Derik, was targeted by Turkish warplanes. Other reports confirmed damages to civilian installations: water supplies to Hasakeh city have been interrupted due to damage of Alok water station, which serves 400,000 people in the area, according to OCHA. The politicization of water in northeast Syria has been ongoing since the start of the Syrian conflict. This was evidenced in the past years by the deliberate disruption of water flows from transboundary rivers originating in Turkey. In past summers water flows to Syria were cut on various occasions, while the opening of Turkish dams caused the flooding of agricultural lands in Girê Spî and other areas as recently as last month. In addition, the GAP project in Southeastern Turkey, which includes Ilisu Dam and other dams to be-constructed on the Tigris River, would curb water flows into Syria and Iraq by as much as half.
The targeting of rivers and destruction of water installations, whether dams, desalinisation plants, sewage or other infrastructure, can cause a humanitarian crisis in health and sanitation across the region. Due to years of conflict, much of the water infrastructure in Syria has been lost or not maintained. If dams are targeted there is a major risk of flooding, as was demonstrated in 2017: Tabqa Dam on the Euphrates River was part of a major assault between the SDF and Daesh, which damaged its power station. There was a serious possibility of dam failure, which lead to emigration of populations from the area at risk.
Read more on the website of the Save the Tigris campaign