Hundreds of families in the Ninewa Plains located north and east of the province are suffering from crippling water shortages, particularly in the summer season, after most of the area’s water networks were damaged during the war against the Islamic State (IS) group.
According to figures obtained by KirkukNow, nearly 50,000 people in Hamdaniya, Alqush, Tlkef, Basik and Bartella have limited access to drinking water.
“When IS fighters arrived in Ninewa Plains, they cut access to water in Alqush and its surrounding areas leading to a crisis; furthermore, the water networks were in bad shape”, Jundi Ali, head of Alqush water distribution department told KirkukNow.
Although works has started to rehabilitate the water networks in different parts of Ninewa Plains, the crisis is yet to end.
Alqush was overran by IS in 2014, forcing the majority of its residents to flee. After the town was recaptured by Iraqi forces nearly 97% of its displaced population returned home.
Sabri Saeed is a resident of Alqush’s Khatari village; he has to buy water supplied by private water tankers three times a week.
“We have to buy water throughout the year, but mostly in the summer season. Every two days, I have to pay 10,000 Iraqi dinars to buy water delivered by water tankers,” he told KirkukNow.
Though there is an artesian well in Sabri’s neighborhood, it doesn’t cover their daily demands; moreover, the well’s saline water is not safe for use.
“We have been experiencing water scarcity for years. We informed the water department many times but nothing has been done so far to tackle this problem,” says Sabri.
Alqush, a sub-district associated with Tlkef district north of Ninewa, is a disputed territory claimed both by the Iraqi federal government and the Kurdistan regional government. It is home to a mixed make-up of Christians, Ezidis and Sunni Arabs.
According to the head of the Alqush water department, “an estimated 15,000 people inhabiting 15 villages and a residential compound in the area are suffering from water scarcity.”
With the help of some humanitarian agencies, parts of the area’s water networks have been restored, but the problem seems to be far from over.
The Tigris River is the main source for providing drinking water in Alqush and other areas in the Ninewa Plains. Meanwhile, half of the villages located in the area depend on artesian wells.
Ghazi Khalil, member of the Hamdaniya district council, speaking to KirkukNow said, “Water is supplied to the center of Hamdaniya, Bashik and parts of Bartella once every 36 hour, while some villages are given access to water every 5 days; therefore many have to buy it.”
According to Hamdaniya administration figures, more than 30,000 people face water shortages.
“Water is supplied to Hamdaniya from the Salamiya water project which was built in the 1980s. The project has not been developed to meet the growing population in the area,” Ghazi Khalil explained.
Hamdaniya district is located southeast of Ninewa predominantly populated by Christians, with a few villages inhabited by the Ezidi and the Shabak community.
The lack of essential services, including drinking water supplies, has represented a major obstacle hampering the return of displaced families.
An estimated 1.8 million people remain displaced across camps and informal housing arrangements across Iraq despite the end of fighting.
Amjad Rasho, member of Tlkef district council indicated that since 2014 “no budgets have been allocated by the Ninewa administration to tackle the issue.”
Rasho cited the devastated water networks and the increase of the area’s population, particularly after the end of the fighting and the return of IDPs, as main reasons behind the problem.