Syrian Kurds warn of 'disastrous' water shortages, accuse Turkey as military offensive looms

Syrian Kurds warn of 'disastrous' water shortages, accuse Turkey as military offensive looms
The Kurdish-led autonomous government in northeast Syria has repeatedly accused Turkey of being responsible for crippling water shortages in the region.
2 min read
12 June, 2022
Kurdish authorities in northeast Syria regularly accused Turkey of withholding water on the Euphrates river, causing water and electricity shortages downstream. [SABAH ARAR/AFP via Getty]

Authorities in northeastern Syria have warned dropping water levels on the Euphrates river could spark a humanitarian disaster, local media reported on Saturday, accusing Turkey of being behind the water shortages

“Reducing the water of the Euphrates River towards Syria is one of Turkey’s special means of war,” Hind al-Ali, an official of the Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), said in a statement

Maintaining water levels in the Euphrates river is key to ensure a stable electric production from northeast Syria's hydroelectric dams, as well as sufficient access to irrigation water for farmers and drinking water for all.

Al-Ali called on Damascus and Baghdad to pressure Ankara into respecting the terms of the Euphrates River Agreement, an international agreement that regulates water-sharing between the three riparian countries since 1987.

"Since the beginning of April, Turkey has been holding back the flow of the Euphrates river, which reached 200 cubic meters per second, below the 500 cubic meters per second agreed upon in the Syrian-Turkish agreement," al-Ali added. Due to the decreased water flow, al-Ali claimed, the Tishrin hydroelectric dam is not operating at the moment.

"We have begun to consume the dam’s reserve stock, which is only used for covering basic needs, such as drinking water and irrigation,” al-Ali added.

Turkey has been accused multiple times by the AANES of violating the terms of the agreement and holding up more than its share of the water in Turkish dams. 

The AANES' statement comes after weeks of Turkish threats to launch a new military offensive against Kurdish-dominated regions of northeastern Syria. 

Ankara said last month it would soon launch new military operations along its southern borders to create safe zones 30 km (20 miles) deep to combat what it sees as 'terrorist threats' from these regions. Turkey has launched several such military operations in northeastern Syria since 2016.