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Morocco asking for water

Drought and poor water management have encouraged "manifestations of thirst" in the tourist town of Zagora

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Morocco asking for water

There is a Morocco that asks for water to sow and anor that claims to drink. But swamps are at 33% and not a drop ends. Drought puts indispensable crops in a country whose agriculture contributes 14% of GDP, twice as much as tourism.

The people who aspire to sow for lunch burst this week on scene with deaths of 15 women in village of Sidi Bulaalam, about 80 kilometres from coasts bad in Atlantic Ocean. The town and its surroundings suffer ravages of a decade without just rain. Families cannot sow wheat, re is no water or to feed livestock. After waiting until two days of cola to receive alms of several packs of food, re was a stampede and killed 15 crushed women. That's how misery was portrayed, but only one part.

At or end of country, 10 hours drive to east, is village of Zagora, with 30,000 inhabitants at gates of desert. Here, scarcity of water and its mismanagement drifted between September and October last in several protests known as "manifestations of thirst". There were 23 detainees, of whom still eight remain in prison. In October king, Mohamed VI, ordered head of government, Saadedín El Otmani, to chair a commission to solve problems of drinking water and irrigation in country. And earlier this month, Otmani said: "I publicly apologize to people of Zagora, because [solving problem] is responsibility of state."

"The water that comes out of tap in our houses cannot be drunk, we buy it in cans to street vendors", complains Atmán Rizku, president in Zagora of Moroccan Association of Human Rights (AMDH). "The problem is not so much drought, but poor water management." In 2015 re were floods in Zagora. But that water was lost, it went to ocean. They haven't built anything to hold m. "And problem is getting worse with massive watermelon plantations."

The watermelons of Zagora, explains Rizku, are collected in April and May, rar than in most parts of world. "That's why y leave so much profit," he adds. "They began to grow on a large scale in 2007." There were scarcely 1000 hectares dedicated to local cultivation. And now it's 10,000. Producers have appropriated land whose waters would have to be dedicated to human consumption. My association has been reporting this problem since 2009. We noticed that we could run out of water. And now we have reached that point. Up to 2016 re was water at home; It was salty, but re was. For eight months, however, neighborhoods in Highlands have barely water and those in low-lying areas have only three or four hours a day.

AkchabaYamal, president of Friends of Environment Association, says: "Salt water has been suffering for decades without state ever having heeded our grievances." But problem has been worsening in last three years because of watermelon plantations, which have grown a lot. This summer we spent three weeks without water, neir to drink nor to wash. "And at Feast of Lamb, in September, people did not have to wash animal."

Tourists and watermelons

Zagora is at gates of Sahara, but before arriving re traveler can appreciate an oasis that stretches through valley of Draa for almost 100 kilometers, with a width that sometimes reaches five kilometers. From road you can see tens of thousands of palm trees surrounded by ochre mountains. The Oasis and desert attract tourism. But tourism is declining and watermelons are booming. From here, many of watermelons that supply Morocco, Mauritania, Europe and Russia come out.

"Tourists are very surprised that a place so arid can be planted watermelons," warns AkchabaYamal. "But people of Europe have to know that those watermelons that eat us are leaving us without water." Big watermelon companies bring currency and work. But counterpart is thirst of people. "If we continue this way we will finish with oases and watermelon plantations because no water will be left for anyone."

Mohamedel Nunasfi is a graduate in biology and one of pioneering entrepreneurs in commercializing watermelons, from 2003. "The problem is not water that consumes watermelon." For a kilo of watermelons it takes 100 liters of water. For a kilo of barley, a thousand liters. For a kilo of dates, 2,000 liters. Watermelon doesn't require much water, but it does have a lot of surface. And re's problem. "Because re is drinking water on that surface that population needs to drink." This businessman coincides with activists of Zagora in that re has been an abuse, a overexploitation of natural resources. And it advocates limiting production and building dams.

In short term, just look at sky. Mohamed El Mehdi Saidi, professor of climatology and hydrology at Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakech, said this week in HuffpostMagreb: "If rain does not begin to arrive in coming days, whole agricultural season will be affected." And we will have to revise all economic forecasts. "It's not just about fidgeting, it's about being alarmed." The Moroccan daily L'Economiste affirmed last Friday that whole country has become a huge waiting room. A room where 15 women, crushed by misery, have just died.

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