Since 1 May 2015, temperatures have been exceptionally high in Western Sahara and water shortage problems began in the cities and towns occupied by Morocco.
The frequent cuts in tap water supply without prior warning by the National Drinking Water Agency (Office National de l’Eau Potable (ONEP)) in the cities of El Aaiún, Smara, Bojador and Dakhla force the local residents to purchase pumps to store this water in water tanks on their own roofs and to buy it from private vendors.
For those who can afford it, the drinking water delivered by a tanker vehicle is purchased at prices at least 10 (ten) times higher than tap water.
Tap water, called a‘aiafa, is a desalinated water. A’aiafa water cuts last from one to four days and when the water runs again, it will be for no more than 3 or 4 hours at low flow, which forces every home to be provided with one or two storage tanks. The neighbourhoods mainly inhabited by Saharawi people, like Ma’atalah, Lahchicha, Erraha, El Quads, Erak and the 707 buildings face these frequent water cuts.
The neighbourhoods in the ancient city and the neighbourhood El Massira (the Green March) where the officials of the occupying authorities live, as well as royal Moroccan army officers or police officers, do not experience the same problems.
The Moroccan National Drinking Water Agency never warns the Saharawi neighbourhoods of the water cuts, which are not objectively and credibly justified. In 2009, ONEP promised to solve the problem and to meet 90 % of the water requirements of the inhabitants but 5 years later nothing has changed in those homes. On the contrary and paradoxically, the occupying municipal council had lush fountains built which do not have water shortages.
Since the Moroccan occupation in 1975, the water supplied by the authorities through individual network and connections to the inhabitants of the occupied territories is this non-drinking water called a’aiafa, a brackish water produced by seawater desalination. The a’aiafa, besides being distributed on an irregular basis, is poor quality water. It is used for washing and bathing, except in the homes of the poor, who use it for drinking and cooking.
A home of 9 people should be able to store about 1300 litres to overcome the periods of shortages.
To have access to safe drinking water, the inhabitants of El Aaiún, Bojador and Dakhla are compelled to buy water that comes by tanker vehicles from Tan Tan, located 320 kilometres north of El Aaiún.
For general information, the a’aiafa is invoiced on a monthly basis by ONEP, consumption and sanitation, 10 dirham per m3.
When sold by means of a tanker vehicle, it costs 6 dirhams per 100 litres, i.e. 60 dirhams per m3. The owners and drivers of the tanker-vehicles who thus resell the a’aiafa are Moroccans.
Each tanker purchases the water at 5,5 dh per m3 from ONEP, Catalunia square. The payment terms consist of a monthly advance of 10 000 dh, settled according to the actual water withdrawal.
The sanitary inspections depending on the municipal council do not appear to be very stringent, given the state of certain tanker vehicles on the road.
A 100 l barrel of water from Tan Tan costs 60 dh; the tankers are equipped with long pipes and with pumps to get the water to the rooftops. The owners of the water sources and of the tankers are also Moroccans. They are private companies.
A 5 litre can of mineral water costs 12 dh in food shops.
To make their tea, the Saharawi traditionally use lghadir, rainwater mixed with clay collected in the desert.
It is clear that drinking water distribution infrastructures are insufficient in Western Sahara and that the Moroccan occupier has no intention to improve living conditions in the territory where it plunders natural resources, including water for agriculture and the propaganda.
In El Aaiún, the local residents remember the great difficulties and health problems in the summer of 2014, when they found themselves without water for several days during Ramadan and are concerned as they see the same problems approaching.
EM, occupied El Aaiún
06 June 2015
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