Draught, Euphrates Water Reduction Raise Farmers’ Concern In Syria’s Raqqa

This report by Ammar Haydar was published by North Press Agency on 31 May, 2022

Hommam al-Mousa, a 39-year-old farmer from the village of Mazraat Badr, 14 km east of Raqqa Governorate, northern Syria, expects a production loss due to the lack of water in the main channel near his land.

The farmer owns about 85 acres of irrigated agricultural land near the main irrigation canal passing by his land, but the insufficient irrigation negatively affected the growth of his crops.

Farmers in the northern countryside of Raqqa complain about the lack of water in the main channels and the drought of artesian wells which exposed agricultural crops to damage.

Al-Mousa fears that “the production value will not cover the costs he spent throughout the year.”

The Agricultural Committee of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) attributes the lack of water in the main cannels to the low level of the Euphrates River.

Irrigation became intermittent due to drying up of artesian wells and the low level of the Euphrates River, according to the Agricultural Committee.

There are regional and global warnings of a health and agriculture disaster in the region due to blocking the flow of the Euphrates River towards the Syrian and Iraqi lands since February 2020 by Turkey.

Low production forecasting

At best, each acre will produce 220 kilograms of wheat this year as the previous one, while it could have produced 450 kilograms if the crop was adequately irrigated, according to farmers’ expectations.

They believe that in light of the lack of rainfall in the region for two years, it was necessary to increase the number of irrigation times. But the scarcity of the Euphrates River and the lack of sufficient water for irrigation prevent this.

Turkey currently stores water in five dams on the Euphrates River, the largest of which is Ataturk Dam with a storage capacity of 48 billion m³. 

This storage capacity violates an international agreement signed with Syria in 1987 which stated that Syria’s share of water coming from Turkey should be no less than 500 m³ per second on average.

While the water supply in the Euphrates River is now limited to less than 200 cubic meters, according to the General Management of Dams in northeast Syria.

Issa Hamadin, deputy head of the Agriculture Committee in Raqqa, pointed out that the production of crops in previous seasons has decreased significantly due to blocking the flow of water by Turkey and the drought that has hit the region for two years. 

Hamadin warns against the continued reduction of the river’s water, which may lead to a large quantity of agricultural lands leaving the production line.

Agricultural land in Raqqa comprises about 400,000 hectares, 100,000 of which are irrigated by artesian wells, while the lands irrigated by irrigation canals and rivers are about 300,000 hectares, according to the Agriculture Committee.

Abandoned wells 

About a year ago, Youssef al-Alawi, 44, dug an artesian well in his land in the village of Hamra Nasser, 18 km east of Raqqa Governorate, in an attempt to maintain the level of wheat production.

But the well’s water began to decline this year, coinciding with the drop in the water level of the Euphrates.

Al-Alawi owns about 40 acres of agricultural land, planted with different crops, such as wheat and cotton. In addition, he has about 12 acres planted with olive trees and summer fruits.

The drought and the river’s water reduction negatively affected the underground wells in the villages and agricultural areas around the river. This has forced farmers to increase the length of the pipes to place them deep in the well so that to be able extract water.

The depth of the farmer’s well is about 40 meters. It stores water depending on some springs that are formed from rain water.

After the well’s water level decreased, al-Alawi was forced to reduce the use of water to half of the quantities he previously used.