By Hana Namrouqa – Apr 18,2017

AMMAN — Authorities have arrested six people for drilling an illegal well at night in Ramtha, in Irbid Governorate, a government official said on Tuesday.

Following reports on “suspicious activities” on Monday night in downtown Ramtha, 90km north of Amman, a team from the Water Authority of Jordan, the Public Security Department and the Gendarmerie raided the location, the official said.

The team discovered that the suspects had locally manufactured a drilling rig with the help of foreign technicians, the official stated, noting that the suspects had also dug a six-metre-deep tunnel and built a five-metre-long wall to conceal the drilling rig and hide their activities.

“The security forces arrested three brothers of the owner of the drilling rig, who is also the owner of the land, and another two people involved in the violation,” the official at the Ministry of Water and Irrigation told The Jordan Times.

The government official said that authorities are now investigating with the suspects, which could face five years in jail and hefty fines for digging a well without a licence.

Since the ministry launched a campaign to end violations on the water networks and resources in 2013, it has seized and confiscated 80 drilling rigs, the official said, adding that the ministry banned the drilling of wells in 1997 to limit random pumping of water, and preserve aquifers from depletion and salinity.

Stiffer penalties for violations against any element of the water system have also been introduced under the amended Water Authority of Jordan Law.

Those who abuse water carriers and mains, wastewater, pumping, purification or desalination stations; or cause the pollution of water resources, pipes or stations used for drinking water; and those who dig or are involved in the digging of wells without obtaining a licence face a prison sentence of up to five years and fines of up to JD7,000.

In addition, violators of water and wastewater projects can be jailed for up to three years and fined up to JD5,000 under the amendments.

All penalties stipulated under the law are doubled in the case of repeat offences.