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News Jordan complains of Syrian water mismanagement

Jordan on Saturday sent a letter to Syria objecting to the cultivation of crops upstream and downstream on the Yarmouk River.

The Jordanian side believes the farming activity is slowing the river’s water flow and storage at Wihdeh Dam, a senior water official said yesterday.

During a meeting of a technical subcommittee affiliated with the Jordanian-Syrian Committee of the Yarmouk River Basin, Jordan Valley Authority Secretary General Musa Jamaani told the Syrian delegates that violations of water-sharing agreements were unacceptable.

Under agreements signed between the two countries, Syria’s share of water from the Wihdeh Dam, which is built on the Yarmouk River, is six million cubic metres (mcm) for agricultural purposes, provided that the dam reaches its full capacity of 110mcm.

But for the first time since its construction two years ago, the dam currently holds only 18mcm, and thus Syria’s share declines to 1mcm. The neighbouring country, however, is pumping more than its allocated share to water crops planted all the way from downstream of Wihdeh Dam to Al Raqqad Valley located on the banks of the Yarmouk River, the official said.

The Yarmouk is a tributary of the Jordan River, originating in the southeastern slopes of Mount Hermon and forming a boundary between Syria and Jordan for almost 40 kilometres before becoming the border between the Kingdom and Israel.

“Syria should know that Jordan’s priority is providing water for drinking. We are cutting farmers’ supplies of water by up to 50 per cent so that we can supply people with water to drink,” Jamaani, who headed the Jordanian side at yesterday’s meeting, told The Jordan Times over the phone.

He added that Syria’s cultivation of summer crops on the banks of the Yarmouk River is consuming Jordan’s water share and slowing the river’s flow.

“The river’s flow dropped from 1,200 litres per second last year to 900 litres per second currently, which is blamed on the cultivation of crops on the river’s banks,” the water official noted.

The subcommittee also discussed the progress of the Yarmouk River Basin Hydro-Geological Study, which aims at protecting the Yarmouk River Basin from depletion.

The study will be carried out jointly by one local company and another from Syria, Jamaani said, adding that the Government Tenders Department will refer the tender to the local company.

The subcommittee also studied deploying monitoring stations at Wihdeh Dam, Jamaani said, adding that the two sides agreed on establishing the stations and identified their locations but more coordination is needed as some will be set up on the Jordanian side of the dam and others on the Syrian side.

The stations aim at monitoring the quantity and quality of water entering the dam from the Yarmouk River and its tributaries, Jamaani said.

Contact information n/a
News type Inbrief
File link
Source of information AHN / Jordan Times
Keyword(s) dam, storage, water crops, water monitoring
Geographical coverage Jordan, Syria
News date 28/04/2009
Working language(s) ENGLISH