SYRIA: Khabur River almost completely dry, raising concerns of disease outbreaks and agricultural crisis

TEL TAMR, Syria — The Khabur River, a crucial water source for Tel Tamr and its surrounding areas in North and East Syria, faces an imminent threat of becoming completely dry due to Turkey’s ongoing reduction of water flows.

The residents of Tel Tamr, a region predominantly composed of Syriac–Assyrians, heavily rely on the waters of the Khabur River for irrigation, as their lands lie along its banks. However, the prolonged withholding of water has caused the river to nearly dry up, leaving behind swamps filled with dirt and mud. The lack of water passage throughout the summer has resulted in an increase in the number of disease-carrying insects thriving on both sides of the river.

Since the onset of the Syrian war, Turkey has significantly curtailed the flow of the Khabur River, allowing water passage only during rare instances of floods, rainwater, or the beginning of spring when melting snow from Turkish mountains contributes to its filling.

Experts specializing in bacterial diseases have sounded the alarm over the continuous disruption of the river’s water flow, warning of potential outbreaks of diseases and epidemics in the region, such as cholera, leishmaniasis, and other infectious diseases.

The dire situation of the Khabur River poses severe consequences for the local communities in Tel Tamr, as they grapple with agricultural hardships and the threat of waterborne illnesses. Urgent measures are needed to address the water scarcity issue and ensure the sustainable management of this vital water resource for the welfare and health of the region’s inhabitants.