Although the threat of ISIS militants remains in Iraq and Syria, the group is no longer the dominant force that it once was. Nowhere else is this more apparent than Syria’s Raqqa Province. Once ISIS’ “capital”, Raqqa is now looking to move past the legacy of destruction left behind by the group. With a population that primarily relies on farming, restoring agriculture is therefore a vital part of reconstruction.
Engineers affiliated with the Raqqa Civic Council are currently working on repairing the Adnaniya Irrigation Station, also known as Bir al-Hashim. The station is one of the most important irrigation stations in Raqqa, supplying some 100,000 acres of farmland in northern Raqqa countryside with water. The irrigation station, in conjunction with a pump in Jarwa, makes up nearly 40% of the water needs.
The station suffered heavy damage at the hands of the militants. Not only did the local clashes cause damage, but the militants blew up the control room and the pumps as part of their scorched-earth tactics. Nearly all cables and other valuable utilities were also stolen. As such, bringing the pump back to working order requires considerable skill and resources.
The destruction of agricultural facilities isn’t unique to Raqqa. The militants destroyed agricultural or economic activity in nearly all the areas they controlled. Regardless of whether it was done out of incompetence or malice, the outcome is all the same.
Restoring irrigation facilities and returning them to working order, however, may not be sufficient to bring prosperity to the farmers here. The fact remains that Syria and Iraq are both gripped by a drought that has now gone on for years. Although the drought may not have been a trigger for the conflicts in both countries, they nevertheless contributed to economic downturn and rural-to-urban migration that put pressure on already weak welfare and utility structures. The solution therefore lies beyond restoring preexisting facilities and resolving these systemic deficiencies.