Syria struggles with dwindling water supply amid drought
October 18, 1999
From Cairo Bureau Chief Ben Wedeman
ALEPPO, Syria (CNN) -- Modern irrigation has helped make the arid reaches of northern Syria bloom.
The fields of parsley -- a major crop in the region -- are green and lush despite a dry year. But the supply of water that made this bounty possible is rapidly running out.
Syrian officials complain that if a Turkish plan to dam the Euphrates River goes through, water levels could fall at Lake Assad, the reservior that provides much of Syria's strategic water supply. The lake and dam -- built with Soviet assistance and named for Syrian leader Hafez Assad -- is also reeling from increasing demand from people, livestock and agriculture.
Syrian officials complain that Turkey has ignored its protests.
"We sent many messages by the diplomatic channels, and 'til now we never received any answer," said Abdel Aziz Masri, a spokesman for Syria's Irrigation Ministry.
There are other sources of water for farmers. Outside Aleppo, for instance, farmers use untreated sewage to irrigate a field of cauliflower. The government allows them to use sewage to grow crops normally cooked before being eaten.
But the effects of a year-long drought are already being seen. Grain production is down nearly 40 percent in the region.
Residents have abandoned areas where wells have run dry, and unless farmers change their ways, observers say more people could be displaced: That could cause more problems in an already-turbulent region.
Syria's Assad visits Russia in bid to strengthen ties
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