by Hana Namrouqa | Apr 28,2012 | 23:19

YARMOUK/IRBID — Political action is needed to resolve the standing issue of persistent Syrian violations of a water-sharing agreement concerning storage in the Wihdeh Dam and exploitation of the Yarmouk River, outgoing water minister Mousa Jamani said on Thursday.

For several years, Jordan has been asking Syria to remove dams and wells established along the Yarmouk River, which reduce water flow and prevent cultivation upstream and downstream of the Wihdeh Dam, he added.

Communications are still ongoing with the Syrian government to end violations depriving Jordan of its legitimate water share, but the violations continue, he noted during a tour organised by the Ministry of Water and Irrigation to the Yarmouk River and Wihdeh Dam. The visit was intended to reveal whether the unstable political conditions in Syria had affected the flow of the shared river and the 110 million cubic metre (mcm) Wihdeh Dam, according to Jamani.

“The violations over the Yarmouk River and Wihdeh Dam, which currently holds 20mcm of water, didn’t increase due to the unstable conditions in Syria, but violations to Jordan’s water share remain,” he told reporters.

Jordan and Syria signed an agreement in 1987 to regulate water sharing between the two countries, Jamani said, noting that under the agreement, Syria has the right to use 6mcm of the Yarmouk River downstream of the Wihdeh Dam to irrigate land along the riverbank.

“Cultivation on the Syrian side of the river is consuming more than the allocated amount because pumps and pipelines are extended to irrigate farms that are not along the riverbank,” Jamani noted.

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

“The solution to Yarmouk Basin water sharing is not technical, it is political,” Jamani said.

He noted that the since the agreement was signed, the number of Syrian dams increased from 26 to 48, while around 3,500 wells were drilled to pump water from the river basin.

“The underground water in the basin is the source of the springs that feed the Yarmouk River. The more wells are drilled, the less water flows,” he said.

Until the 1960s, the Yarmouk River’s flow used to reach 16 cubic metres of water per second, but has since dropped to one cubic metre per second.