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In battle for Libya’s oil, water becomes a casualty

In battle for Libya’s oil, water becomes a casualty thumbnail

While Libya’s oil lies at the heart of three months of fighting over Tripoli and years of power struggles before that, water is becoming a far bigger concern for its people.

People fill gallons with water during a water shortage in Tripoli, Libya June 13, 2019. REUTERS/Hazem Ahmed

Interruptions to water supplies are common after eight years of near-anarchy since Muammar Gaddafi was ousted, but a wider crisis is now coming to a head in a country made up mainly of arid desert and split between competing administrations.

In western Libya, finding clean water has become difficult because both the power grid and water control system have been damaged in an offensive by forces loyal to eastern-based Khalifa Haftar on Tripoli, where the U.N.-backed government is based.

“Drinkable water is a daily issue for my family,” said Usama Mohamed Dokali, a cashier in a cafe in Tripoli, who buys bottled water when he can and gets it from a charity when his money runs out. Other people fill bottles from wells and hope for the best.

Looting and neglect have made the situation fragile and armed groups have exploited the unrest. In May, gunmen pressing officials to release a detained relative forced water workers to turn off supplies to all of Tripoli for two days.

The United Nations has warned all sides that water should not become a weapon of war, but the water system is already badly damaged in western Libya where the capital is located, according to unpublished reports by the water authority and the United Nations Childrens’ Agency.

Even local bottled water in a country which sits on Africa’s biggest proven oil reserves has become contaminated.

If the damage does not get fixed, there could be a “sudden, unexpected, uncontrollable and un-prepared for” shutdown of the main water pipeline system, the water authority said in a March presentation to international organizations seen by Reuters.

“The consequences will be catastrophic as there is no viable alternative water supply system,” it said.

That warning of a possible systematic failure, echoed in a draft UNICEF report the same month, is the most dramatic sign of a collapse of state services in what was once one of North Africa’s richest countries.

It would have far-reaching consequences in a country where lawlessness is being exploited again by Islamist militants, armed groups and people promising to smuggle African migrants and refugees to Europe.

“An estimated 4 million people would be deprived of access to safe water,” UNICEF Libya spokesman Mostafa Omar said by email, listing cholera, hepatitis A and diarrhea, a major childhood killer, as the likely result.


Poor public services were one of the drivers of the uprising against Gaddafi, but a 4,000 km (2,485-mile) pipeline system known as the Great Man Made River (MMRP) was a world-leading civil engineering project when it was built in the 1980s.

Some 80 percent of the population of six million live along or near the northern Mediterranean coast and depend on fresh water pumped via its pipelines from vast aquifers further south, where Libya’s abundant oil reserves also lie.

Ground water in coastal areas is salty and contaminated by sewage and around 80 percent of desalination plants have broken down, water authority officials and diplomats say.

The pipes supply Libya with more than 70 percent of its fresh water and remain crucial because desalination plants are complicated to fix and vulnerable to attack, officials at the United Nations’ children’s agency say.

People dismantle well heads to sell the copper and tribesmen living in the neglected south close or destroy pipes to press their demands with officials in the capital.

As a result, 101 of 479 wells on the western pipeline system have been dismantled, Abdullah El-Sunni, head of the Tripoli-based water authority said in an interview with Reuters. Asked if there could be a water crisis, he said power cuts were already threatening supplies.

Since the central monitoring room of the pipeline system for western Libya was hit around early May, engineers have been unable to gauge water pressure and flows. A Tunisian maintenance firm working on the system left because of the fighting.

“The water flow to Western Libya has dropped from the normal flow of 1.2 million cubic meters per day to about 800,000 cubic meters per day now, due to sabotage and lack of funding and maintenance,” Sunni said.

Across Libya, demand has risen to 7 billion cubic meters annually, up from 5.5 billion in 2011, as farmers and others have drilled wells or tapped reservoirs, Sunni said. By 2025, Libya will need 8 billion.

The draft UNICEF report, which has yet to be finalised, listed kidnapping of water workers and looting of equipment among many problems.

In May, gunmen pressing officials to release a detained relative forced water workers to turn off supplies to all of Tripoli – a short-lived halt that led the United Nations to warn all sides that water should not become a weapon of war.

“If not addressed properly and immediately, these threats and damages could lead to the complete failure of the MMRP,” it said.

Sunni said water quality had been affected by a lack of treatment, due to a shortage of funds for chemicals and equipment, and some officials agree with residents who say water in the taps is not fit to drink.

“All water is contaminated,” said Badr al-Din al-Najjar, head of the National Center for Disease Control, listing problems such as harmful bacteria or a high-salt content. “There is no drinking water, especially from the state.”

The problem has been building since Gaddafi’s overthrow, when officials stopped investing in facilities that had been looted, damaged or allowed to deteriorate in the chaos.


Libya sits on Africa’s biggest proven oil reserves and is pumping the highest volumes of crude since 2013.

But the $34 billion budget is mainly used to pay armed groups, an overstaffed public service and fuel subsidies or is simply stolen, diplomats say and some Libyan officials admit. The government says it is committed to fighting corruption and its economic reforms have helped.

Haftar, a former Gaddafi-era military commander, is allied to a parallel administration which has hired thousands of employees and fighters.

In Tripoli, Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj’s U.N.-backed government has brought some order but armed groups have forced the state to give them and their partners jobs or contracts.

Sunni said water infrastructure needed 2 billion dinars ($1.4 billion) of investment but his authority got 60 million dinars last year and nothing yet this year due to the war.

Serraj said in an interview that funding for Libya’s development and basic services had to be diverted to equip troops and treat the wounded.

While instability since 2011 has eroded living standards, with GDP of around $7,235 per capita, Libya is still an upper middle income country, according to the World Bank.

But it now depends on the U.N. and other international organizations for a multitude of services, including building water tanks for the one-in-five schools without piped water.

“Libya and Tripoli have been without water for many, many hours for two months…so how can children wash?” said Abdel-Rahman Ghandour, Libya Special Representative of UNICEF.

Slideshow (13 Images)

The agency also carries out basic childhood vaccinations and the United Nations and other international bodies provide food for displaced people and even medical kits to state hospitals to treat civilians and fighters on both sides of the frontline.

“The health system is about to collapse,” Najjar said.

Authorities have banned swimming in the Mediterranean in and around Tripoli because sewage gets pumped unfiltered in to the sea. With homes deprived of air conditioning by power cuts, people crowd the beaches nonetheless.


14 Comments on "In battle for Libya’s oil, water becomes a casualty"

  1. Cloggie on Fri, 5th Jul 2019 1:30 am 

    Libya is a fairly artificial country, born out of the collapse of the Ottoman empire and taken over by the Italians from the Turks after 1911, until the Americans and Soviets found a (British) entrance to colonize Europe.

    These people can’t help themselves. Actually they could, under Qaddafi it was the best organized African state, after (white-run) South-Africa. But thanks to the criminal behavior of (((Sarkozy))) and “philosopher” (((Bernard Levy))), doing the dirty work for the Americans, the country is ruined.

    Perhaps Salvini can give a helping hand here and solve a lot of problems in one stroke. The Americans have given the good example: all it takes is flying an unmanned drone into an Italian government building, say it were Libyan Ayrabs with box-cutters and you’re good, the television-watching boobs will buy it. Libya has a population of 6 million, Italy ten times as much. Perhaps the Italians can do it, even without German

    Pacify the country, give them water and electricity, close its southern border against invaders from black Africa, secure oil for Italy against world market prices, just in case Donnie (Bolton rather) sets the ME on fire and put Libya on its feet again.

    We all know how much the darkies love to be with the whiteys, well then, what are you waiting for, Matteo!? Time for some Italian Roman-style greatness! Make Italy Roman Again (MIRA).×342.jpg

    “An estimated 4 million people would be deprived of access to safe water,” UNICEF Libya spokesman Mostafa Omar said by email, listing cholera, hepatitis A and diarrhea, a major childhood killer, as the likely result.

    See? It’s a moral obligation to help these poor folks.

  2. Anonymouse on Fri, 5th Jul 2019 6:04 am 

    Cloggjude is a fairly artificial on-line ‘personality’ born out of collapse of any semblance of common sense, intelligence and the anonymity the internet provides. He discovered a place where he literally cannot be banned and found a entrance to colonize with spam from the Daily Mail and Infowars.

    Cloggjude can’t help himself. Actually he could, but getting himself organized, mental health care, cleaned up, and a job in the white mans world, is not something that interests cloggkike at all. Thanks to his criminal behavior (((Spamming))), and his ‘philosphy’ (((faux-green Judaism))), with his retard buddy (((Davy-Mob))) doing his dirty work, is ruined.

    Perhaps the site owner can give a helping hand and IP ban CloggJude and solve a lot of problems in one click. All it would take is one click, or flying an unmanned drone into cloggkikes bedroom window where he never leaves his laptop. The EU where he claims to from has a population of 100s of millions and no one would miss one more obnoxious, lying welfare jew.

    See?,It’s a moral obligation to keep free of poor, mentally challenged dipshits.

  3. JuanP on Fri, 5th Jul 2019 8:48 am 

    Media Predictions Of “Tiny Crowd” For Trump July 4 Speech Proven Spectacularly Wrong
    The media ran headlines right up to the day of President Trump’s July 4 speech predicting only a “tiny crowd” would show up. How spectacularly wrong they were. An Independent article titled ‘Trump officials ‘fear embarrassingly tiny crowd’ for his Fourth of July speech’ was typical of the coverage. In reality, photos from the event show crowds stretching the full length of the national mall.
    — Graham Ledger (@GrahamLedger) July 5, 2019
    According to the media, this is “tiny”.
    Yes! There are so many Trump Supporters that LOVE their country & the Make America Great Again Agenda! This photo makes me want to cry — so happy & proud!
    Trump2020 here we come!❤️
    — Corryn (@Corrynmb) July 4, 2019
    So tiny!
    The view looking out into the crowd from the Lincoln Memorial. No word yet on if weather will affect the planned flyovers during/after President Trump’s speech. #SaluteToAmerica
    — Omar Jimenez (@OmarJimenezCNN) July 4, 2019
    “The webcam at the National Mall was abruptly shut down without notice and has been removed from the site. Presumably to stop viewers from seeing the lack of attendees at the #TrumpParade. We are about to relive Trump’s inauguration all over again,” claimed one leftist on Twitter.
    — Paul Joseph Watson (@PrisonPlanet) July 4, 2019
    He was presumably unaware of the fact that it’s silly to judge the size of a crowd hours before an event even starts. Leftists are all over Twitter claiming the huge crowd images were “photoshopped”. Presumably, renowned Trump-loving network CNN was busy photoshopping them. Leftists everywhere claiming huge crowds at July 4 parade were “photoshopped”. Here’s one from CNN, hardly a fan of Trump.
    The sheer level of self-delusion you engage in is beyond belief.#TrumpParadeFail
    — Paul Joseph Watson (@PrisonPlanet) July 5, 2019
    In fact the only only “tiny” crowd was the one that showed up with the Trump baby balloon.
    — Paul Joseph Watson (@PrisonPlanet) July 4, 2019
    That was really tiny.

  4. Davy on Fri, 5th Jul 2019 10:58 am 

    Oops, sorry everyone. I forgot the link again.

  5. JuanP on Fri, 5th Jul 2019 12:03 pm 

    Oops, sorry everyone. I forgot I am not Davy

  6. Davy on Fri, 5th Jul 2019 12:20 pm 

    Oops, sorry everyone. I forgot I am not JuanP

  7. JuanP on Fri, 5th Jul 2019 12:23 pm 

    Oops, sorry everyone now I am playing id games

  8. More Davy Identity Theft and Child Like Behavior on Fri, 5th Jul 2019 1:35 pm 

    JuanP on Fri, 5th Jul 2019 8:48 am

    JuanP on Fri, 5th Jul 2019 12:03 pm

    JuanP on Fri, 5th Jul 2019 12:23 pm

  9. Kenz300 on Fri, 5th Jul 2019 3:14 pm 

    Too many people and too few resources.
    With the Climate Crisis making the area hotter and dryer what could go wrong?

  10. DerHundistLos on Sat, 6th Jul 2019 12:33 am 


    Donald Trump’s boy in Venezuela has crashed and burned due to a corruption scandal in which Juan Guaidó’s right-hand man embezzled a huge amount of campaign funds that were delivered to Guaidó courtesy of Donald Trump and the American taxpayers.

    I guess we won’t here anymore stories by Trump how as soon as looked Guaidó in the eye, he knew he had picked a winner.

    Maybe DJT should leave picking a winner to his right index finger and two nostrils.

  11. DerHundistLos on Sat, 6th Jul 2019 12:44 am 

    I forgot to add:

    Trump administration has double downed in support of the tainted and despised Guaidó while at the same time continuing to enforce terrible sanctions that have pushed Venezuela to the point of “famine”. This in turn is creating chaos and intense anger in Colombia and Brazil as hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans cross the border areas in search of food and work. The American capitalists LOVE what’s happening as the Venezuelans will work for ANYTHING. The average monthly income of just $280.00 is no longer the absolute minimum, but now the norm and the people are rightfully so PISSED, PISSED, PISSED at Trump and the US.

  12. Cloggie on Sat, 6th Jul 2019 3:26 am 

    There we go again…

    Every two weeks or so a new monkey theater. This time it is the ship Sea-Eye. The numbers are completely irrelevant: 65 welfare tourists, sold as refugees by the empire press.

    (all young fighting age males, the sort of people that CAUSE refugees, but per definition can’t be refugees themselves)

    The ship had picked them up from the sea. Next the Libyan port of Sawija offered to take these gate crashers in, but the marxist crew refused with the argument that NOBODY IS SAFE IN LIBYA (so why not ship in all 6 million Libyans by default, next to over 1 billion Africans?).

    Btw: the recolonization of Africa would be an entirely justifiable thing to do, pure out of humanitarian grounds alone.

    Perhaps we’ll contemplate that, after we have dealt with another problem first, namely the only real enemy Europe has.

  13. Cloggie on Sat, 6th Jul 2019 3:53 am 

    Trump announces to throw out illegals in large numbers from the US (first see, then believe):

    The New America, mobster and his side-kicks siss and empire dave are promoting (“racism, natzi!”):

    Meanwhile in Gibraltar, the British lapdogs of the Americans intercepted an Iranian oil-tanker:

    The Persians are threatening a “sea of blood”. Bring it on Persia, but please wait until October 1, the Brexit date. Then the fun can begin. No oil from the Gulf means a crashing European economy, but that’s OK. Frees up a lot of male resources for the military. Vlad will supply us with sufficient juice to at least keep the military gear rolling, provided of course it is used against the correct enemy. When you think in time frames of decades or even centuries, a lost economic decade is acceptable, if as compensation you can score a major geopolitical victory, like rolling back 1945.

    Heck, why not think big and roll back 1776.

  14. Cloggie on Sat, 6th Jul 2019 1:43 pm 

    Just on the Dutch news: total number of illegal immigrants through the Mediterranean in 2019 into Europe so far:


    Who needs a wall, if you have the sea.

    Sorry mobster, you lost.LOL

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