Biblical Euphrates River Drying Threatening Humanitarian Disaster In Syria

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By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent

(Worthy News) – Aid groups have warned of a looming humanitarian disaster in northeast as one of the Bible’s most famous rivers is drying up fast. The Euphrates, which is believed to have flown through the Biblical ‘Garden of Eden,’ now barely runs for almost 2,800 kilometers (1,700 miles) across , Syria, and .

“It’s as if we were in the desert,” said Khaled al-Khamees, standing on what last year was the Euphrates riverbed. The 50-year-old farmer added that Syria’s longest river used to flow by his olive grove. However, today, it has receded into the distance, parching his trees and leaving his family with hardly a drop to drink.

“We’re thinking of leaving because there’s no water left to drink or irrigate the trees,” he told French Agency AFP.

He isn’t alone. Experts say that since January, plummeting water levels at hydroelectric dams threaten water and power cutoffs for up to five million Syrians amid a pandemic and economic crisis. As drought grips the Mediterranean region, many in the Kurdish-held area reportedly accuse neighbor and archfoe Turkey of “weaponizing water by tightening the tap upstream.”

Turkey claims Kurdish fighters have links to its outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and has grabbed land from them during Syria’s .

Experts say almost 90 percent of the Euphrates flow comes from Turkey, and much of it runs through Kurdish territory, the says. To ensure Syria’s fair share, Turkey in 1987 agreed to allow an annual average of 500 cubic meters per second of water across its border.

However, that has reportedly dropped to as low as 200 in recent months. Turkey denies it has reduced the water flow towards Syria. It says it also suffers drought due to what it believes is climate change. Rainfall in southern Turkey was reportedly the lowest in the last 30 years.

Nevertheless, analyst Nicholas Heras told AFP that Turkey did hold leverage over Syria and Iraq with the massive Ataturk Dam just 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the Syrian border.

However, Heras said it was debatable whether Ankara wanted to use it.
It would mean “international complications for Ankara, both with the United States and ,” a key Damascus ally in Syria across the table.

Water shortages have added to the misery of millions of people already suffering in a devastating civil war across Syria. While some scientists blame climate change, other experts would argue that human activities around the river also play a role. Whatever the reason, al-Khamees, a father of 12, said he had not seen the river so far away from the village in decades. “The women have to walk seven kilometers (four miles) just to get a bucket of water for their children to drink,” he added.
Moreover, with no signs of progress, leaving in search of green pastures along the Euphrates River may be his only option.

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