BEIRUT

Middle East

Water crisis begins to ease in Aleppo, foes trade blame

Children carry buckets of water in a rebel-held area in Aleppo on May 12, 2014.(AFP PHOTO/ZEIN AL-RIFAI)

BEIRUT: Water supplies have begun to return to neighborhoods of war-torn Aleppo, activists said Monday, after more than a week of cuts that affected the entire city.

Local anti-regime activists said supplies were “gradually” being restored to some neighborhoods, but after nine days of cuts, an unspecified number of people had become sick from drinking polluted water, while long lines formed around the city as residents scrambled to secure a minimum of their water needs.

The cuts affected both the western, regime-controlled part of Aleppo, and eastern, rebel-held areas, with accusations flying over who was responsible.

The Britain-based, Syrian Observatory for the Human Rights, an anti-regime group, blamed the Nusra Front for the move, while the city’s Public Administration for Services, an ad hoc local council, in the rebel-held part, blamed regime attacks for the inability to repair the network.

The Observatory Monday said the ad hoc rebel alliance of Ahl al-Sham – which includes Nusra – along with Aleppo’s Shariah Committee, were seeking to end the cuts in order to fully separate the network so that regime-held areas could be isolated, and presumably targeted later on by another round of water cuts.

The Observatory cited engineers in the city who said “non-experts” were behind the moves, which could have “catastrophic” effects if their plan to separate the two halves of Aleppo succeeded.

But the Public Administration for Services said relentless regime aerial and other attacks on the city led to chaotic conditions for the water network, as workers closed off various sections to prevent further damage.

“But this only led to a buildup of pressure and imbalances, damaging pumps,” it added.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 13, 2014, on page 8.

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