Equipment, drilling rig seized as authorities search for suspects

By Hana Namrouqa – Dec 12,2018

AMMAN — Authorities on Wednesday seized and confiscated a drilling rig near Um Al Jimal archaeological site in Mafraq, according to a government official, who said that those involved in the illegal drilling of the well are being tracked down.

An local resident contacted the Ministry of Water and Irrigation and reported that a group of people had been drilling an illegal well, according to the official at the ministry, who noted that a team from the ministry and a security force inspected the location to verify the information.

“At the reported location, we discovered that a group of people, who managed to flee the scene upon learning that a security force was approaching, erected a metal wall around the site of the drilling to hide their illegal activity and the rig and equipment,” the official told The Jordan Times over the phone.

The technical team sealed the illegal well, the official said, adding that the equipment and the drilling rig were seized and confiscated.

The ministry banned the drilling of wells in 1998 to limit random pumping of water, in order to preserve aquifers from depletion and salinity. In 2013, the ministry started a nationwide crackdown on water violations and theft across the Kingdom.

Recent ministry figures show that over 1,063 wells have been sealed, and more than 65 drilling rigs have been seized and confiscated. In addition, more than 38,213 violations on water networks and resources have been stopped. Over 286 water-related cases are currently pending at court, while the ministry has collected JD3.45 million in fines for water pumped from illegal wells, according to the ministry.

Stiffer penalties for infractions against the water system have been introduced under the amended Water Authority of Jordan Law. Those who abuse water carriers and mains, wastewater, pumping, purification or desalination stations, cause the pollution of water resources, pipes or stations used for drinking water, 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, while all penalties are doubled in the case of repeat offences.