NORTH and EAST SYRIA: Turkey seizes Euphrates water, threatening farmland and food security

North and East Syria – The Euphrates and Tigris rivers are historically the two great and defining rivers of Mesopotamian civilization and livelihood. Both the Tigris and the Euphrates flow south from eastern Turkey through Syria and Iraq, and end up in the Persian Gulf. Tens of millions of people are depended on the rivers’ water. The Euphrates River is a major source of livelihood for civilians in the Democratic Autonomous Administration in Syria, a self-administered part of Syria which is majority Arab, followed by the Kurdish component and several smaller components as Syriacs, Armenians, Yazidis, and Turkmen.

The one who controls the source of the Euphrates river has power over the dependents of that vital water. Although the International Committee of the Red Cross says that so long as water is a civilian object and indispensable to the survival of the population, warfare against or by means of water is utterly incompatible with the principles and rules of humanitarian law, the one who controls the water source might use it as a tool in conflict or war to pressure those who he considers adversaries, regardless of how many civilians this affects.

In an interview with North Press Agency, member of the Operations Department of the Euphrates Dam Renas Bako indicated that Turkey is currently threatening the Euphrates water supply; “the water level in the lake of the Euphrates Dam (Assad Lake) has decreased dramatically, as a result of the Turkish seizure of the water of the river.”

He said that this may lead to a potential disaster if the Turkish practices continue. The percentage of the water stored in the Euphrates Dam Lake is currently 301 meters, while it was 304 meters before Turkey seized the water of the river. Renas Bako warned of a major potential catastrophe in case the water of the Euphrates River continues to be seized, indicating that this will negatively affect farmland and food security on the Syrian side of the Euphrates River;

“The Turkish practices would lead to a reduction in electricity generation to less than 10 hours, as the decline rate in the water level of the Euphrates Dam Lake decreased more than 3 meters,” Bako concluded.

Related: Turkey reduces Euphrates River flow to North and East Syria by more than half