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World - Middle East

Syria struggles with dwindling water supply amid drought

Well
Water pumped from hundreds of wells in northern Syria is rapidly running out  

October 18, 1999
Web posted at: 5:34 a.m. EDT (0934 GMT)

From Cairo Bureau Chief Ben Wedeman

ALEPPO, Syria (CNN) -- Modern irrigation has helped make the arid reaches of northern Syria bloom.

The fields of parsley -- a major crop in the region -- are green and lush despite a dry year. But the supply of water that made this bounty possible is rapidly running out.

Syrian officials complain that if a Turkish plan to dam the Euphrates River goes through, water levels could fall at Lake Assad, the reservior that provides much of Syria's strategic water supply. The lake and dam -- built with Soviet assistance and named for Syrian leader Hafez Assad -- is also reeling from increasing demand from people, livestock and agriculture.

Field
Drought has forced farmers to use untreated sewage to irrigate a field  

Syrian officials complain that Turkey has ignored its protests.

"We sent many messages by the diplomatic channels, and 'til now we never received any answer," said Abdel Aziz Masri, a spokesman for Syria's Irrigation Ministry.

There are other sources of water for farmers. Outside Aleppo, for instance, farmers use untreated sewage to irrigate a field of cauliflower. The government allows them to use sewage to grow crops normally cooked before being eaten.

But the effects of a year-long drought are already being seen. Grain production is down nearly 40 percent in the region.

Residents have abandoned areas where wells have run dry, and unless farmers change their ways, observers say more people could be displaced: That could cause more problems in an already-turbulent region.




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RELATED SITES:
Syria.On.Line
Syria
The Middle East Network Information Center
ArabNet
The Republic of Turkey
  • Office of the Turkish Prime Minister, Directorate General of Press and Information
  • Foreign Policy of Turkey
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