‘Owner of farm identified, search under way for rig’s owner’

By Hana Namrouqa – Nov 09,2016

A combo photo of the drilling rig confiscated by the authorities recently near the border with Syria (Photo courtesy of Ministry of Water)

AMMAN — Authorities have seized and confiscated a drilling rig that was used to dig an illegal well on the far end of Jordan’s border with Syria, an official said on Wednesday.

The drilling rig was operating in the middle of the night in Jaber Al Sarhan area, located in Mafraq Governorate on the northeastern tip of the country, the official at the Ministry of Water and Irrigation said.

“The site where the illegal drilling of the well was taking place was in a remote farm. The ministry received information about the sighting of a drilling rig in Mafraq, following which a team from security agencies and the ministry was mobilised to the location,” the official told The Jordan Times on condition of anonymity.

As security forces and the ministry’s team approached the area, those involved in the drilling of the well fled the scene, he added.

“We found the drilling rig hidden in a trench and covered with olive tree branches to conceal it. The vehicle is now in the possession of the central workshops department,” the official said.

The owner of the farm where the drilling rig was, has been identified is now being tracked down, he noted, while further investigations will later reveal the owner of the drilling rig, which is unlicensed.

“The movement of drilling rigs in Jordan is highly monitored because digging wells is not allowed. Almost all of the drilling rigs that we find are unlicensed,” the official said.

He noted that importing drilling rigs into the country is now restricted, adding that the ones caught and confiscated are locally manufactured.

“Since the ministry initiated its campaign to end water violations in the summer of 2013, it has seized and confiscated over 80 drilling rigs. Currently, there are 50 drilling rigs in our possession,” the government official said.

He noted that the seized and confiscated drilling rigs are dismantled and eventually sold as scrap metal.

The ministry banned the drilling of wells in 1997 to limit random pumping of water and in order to preserve aquifers from depletion and salinity.

Under the ongoing campaign, authorities have sealed more than 806 wells, according to the ministry.