A vital water reservoir in Northwestern Syria has dried up completely for the first time, according to officials and farmers, reports AFP.
Syria is experiencing one of its driest and hottest years on record after historically low rainfall last winter. This issue as well as structural damage and too much extraction by desperate farmers has left the waterbody completely dry for the first time in the 27 years since it was inaugurated.
The reservoir formed by Al-Duwaysat Dam in Idlib province is a key irrigation source for thousands of farmers. With a capacity of 3.6 million cubic metres (38.8 million square feet), the World Bank informs that it is mainly used for irrigation and water supply.
Farmers in the region have said that the reservoir allows 800 families to irrigate 150 hectares (370 acres) of farmland.
The reservoir is now mostly a large expanse of dried-up earth with beached rowing boats, dead trees and animal skulls scattered around. Only a small number of shallow pools remain, where small flocks of sheep graze on new shoots.
"Because of drought and low rainfall, we can now walk on the floor of the reservoir," its managing engineer Maher al-Hussein said to AFP, recalling that it was at full capacity just two years ago.
According to Hussein, the reservoir was half-full last winter due to the lack of rain. These months, farmers have extracted the water for irrigation to save their thirsty crops. The waterbody also has significant leakages due to damage to the main pipeline that feeds water from the reservoir to irrigation networks.
"It is the first time the reservoir has dried out since it was built in 1994," Hussein said.
"For 10 years we have come to this reservoir," said cattle farmer Abu Joumaa. "If God does not send us good rainfall that could fill the reservoir this year... people won't be able to grow crops they rely on to make a living."