News Middle East

Friday 28 July 2017

Damascus residents left without water

Rebel fighters walk inside a trench on the forth day of the truce, on al-Rayhan village front near the rebel held besieged city of Douma, in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta. Photo: Reuters
Rebel fighters walk inside a trench on the forth day of the truce, on al-Rayhan village front near the rebel held besieged city of Douma, in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta. Photo: Reuters
A rebel fighter stands near weapons on the forth day of the truce, on al-Rayhan village front near the rebel held besieged city of Douma, in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta. Photo: Reuters
Rebel fighters carry their weapons down a staircase on the forth day of the truce, on al-Rayhan village front near the rebel held besieged city of Douma, in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta. Photo: Reuters
A rebel fighter carries his weapon up a staircase on the forth day of the truce, on al-Rayhan village front near the rebel held besieged city of Douma, in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta. Photo: Reuters
Rebel fighters dig a trench on the forth day of the truce, on al-Rayhan village front near the rebel held besieged city of Douma, in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta, Syria. Photo: Reuters

Philip Issa in Beirut

Residents of Damascus are scrambling for clean water after the Syrian government attacked rebels holding the city's main source in a nearby valley, leading to an accidental outage that has stretched on for nearly two weeks.

The cut-off is a major challenge to the government's effort throughout the nearly six-year-old civil war to keep the capital as insulated as possible from the effects of the conflict tearing apart much of the country.

"I have stopped cleaning the house, washing dishes or clothes. We no longer take showers," said Mona Maqssoud, a 50-year-old resident of Damascus. She said residents have relied on water tankers that come by occasionally and give 20 litres of water to each house, but that hasn't been enough. "We begged the drivers (to return) to our neighbourhood, but they refused."

The cut-off, since December 22, is the longest Damascus has seen, say residents, who are accustomed to intermittent outages. The opposition has long controlled Wadi Barada, the valley north-west of Damascus through which the river of the same name flows to the capital. The Barada River and its source, the Ain al-Fijeh spring, supply 70pc of the water for Damascus.

The government and the opposition had previously had an understanding to keep water services running. But that modus vivendi ended when forces of President Bashar al-Assad and his allies, the Lebanon Hezbollah guerrilla force, attacked the valley, home to some 100,000 people. The two sides blame each other for the cut-off.

An activist-run media collective in the Barada Valley said government and Russian aircraft had bombed the Ain el-Fijeh water processing facility, puncturing its fuel depots and contaminating the water stream. The collective said the plant's electrical control systems had been destroyed as well. Images showed the roof of the facility collapsed into its main water basin.

An activist with the group, Abu Mohammed al-Bardawi, said it would take at least two months to get the facilities working again.

Irish Independent

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