Reports

Power Crisis Hits Qamishli, Forcing the City to Join Opposition Areas in Their Dependence on “Amperes”

Translated by: Sailer Perkins

 

Qamishli, a city in the Syrian Al-Hasakah province, and its surrounding villages have joined the Syrian opposition areas in their dependence on electrical generators after suffering from the cutoff of the flow of electricity. This is unusual for the area, as it falls under the control of the Syrian government and the Kurdish self-governance administration.

The electricity crisis in Qamishli and the surrounding areas began in early April, moving citizens and activists to protest and organize demonstrations and campaigns calling for a solution to the issue.

On 28 June 2017, tens gathered in the western neighborhood of Qamishli near Nasebeen Circle protesting the cutoff of electricity received from the Syrian government. The citizens generally draw their electricity from the government’s security quarter in the city.

Similarly, activists launched a campaigned titled “We Want Enough Electricity,” saying that the population of the Al-Jazira Canton, and in particular the cities of Qamishli and al Hasaka, are suffering from the cutoff of reliable and constant electricity. The activists demanded the officials find a solution to the problem.

Hawazen al-Hussein, a civilian from Qamishli said to The Syrian Voice that “we were living in comfort while the electricity reached us from the government security quarter.” Al-Hussein indicated that “the electricity in the security quarter and which comes from it is available almost constantly.”

Al-Hussein mentioned that “the government neighborhoods of Qamishli close to the airport (Al Zahraa, Tay, the western neighborhood) were previously receiving electricity up to twenty hours per day, which has since diminished to only ten hours per day. However, other neighborhoods receive no more than two hours of electricity per day, driving the people there to protest.”

According to Al-Hussein, the Syrian government and the Kurdish self-governing administration trade accusations, with each assigning blame to the other for the diminished hours of steadily available electricity to these neighborhoods.

With neither of the dominant forces in the region finding a way to a solution, the continuation of the electricity crisis has pushed civilians to use “Ampere” generators. These medium-sized generators, placed in residential neighborhoods, each feed a number of residential buildings with electricity.

Ampere generators have created partial solutions, although they have exhausted civilian’s pockets. A single home’s consumption is estimated at four to ten amperes monthly, at a cost of 1200 Syrian Lira (2.31 USD) per ampere.

According to Bankin Abdou, a civilian from Qamishli, “the electricity from the Ampere generators is not available at all times, and is limited from the hours of 13:00 until 17:00 and 19:00 until midnight.

Generator usage consumes approximately ten percent of civilian’s wages in Qamishli, where the median worker’s wage is about 40000 SYP (80 USD) per year. According to al-Hussein, a home’s minimum consumption of four amperes per month would cost 4800 SYP.

Furthermore, the electricity crisis in Qamashli is reflected in the aesthetic aspect of the city, which has been among those free and away from bombing and destruction.

Hala, a 30 year old worker, stated to a correspondent for The Syrian Voice that “the sky in the city has become like a spider web, with power lines crossing randomly from every direction, since citizens remain dependent on the amperes and the generators spread throughout the city’s neighborhoods.”

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Photograph showing the random spread of power lines in Qamishli

Hala estimated the number of generators in Qamishli to be around 350, making the generators a serious source of noise and environmental pollution. Hala noted that “despite all the problems that the generators create, civilians have not found another option in these circumstances. The generators are the only alternative to the power cutoffs in the summer, and with the temperatures rising.”

The electricity crisis is also reflected in the trade and industry sectors twice as much as in the lives of civilians, according to comments from area resident Jaber Jendu to The Syrian Voice.

“I lost ten million lira as a result of the power outage in the city of Amouda,” said Mr. Jendu, who owns a fish raising farm 90 kilometers east of Amouda.

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Photo showing a fish kill on Mr. Jendu’s fish farm

 

“I borrowed seven million lira to buy an electric generator because of the power cutoff to the fish tank I own,” said Mr. Jendu to a reporter for The Syrian Voice. He added, “in addition to the price of the generator, I have lost three million lira in the value of the 1000 fish that died as a result of the power outage.”

Jendu stressed to The Syrian Voice that the power crisis began a number of months ago in the city of Amouda. Jendu said that on the worst days electricity was only available for twenty minutes in the city, while it was available for two or three hours in other cities in the region.

Jendu holds the Kurdish self-governing administration responsible for improving the electric network, saying that “as long as there is a self-governing administration, it is responsible for its citizens.” He accused the administration’s Energy Authority of “giving nothing but justifications.”

In addition to this failure in self-management, according to Jendu, the lack of patrols for monitoring generator owners has led them to exploit the needs of civilians. This has caused prices to double in some areas, reaching 2500 lira per ampere.

In response to civilian’s accusations towards the self-governing administration’s

Energy Authority, Mr. Akram Soliman, the Authority’s general manager, said that “protesters against the electricity cuts in Qamishli brought in power lines illegally at their own expense seven years ago. This is against the law and we are obliged to remove them.”

Soliman pointed out that “the electricity problem is commonly shared throughout the city,” and that the Energy Authority is trying to secure maintenance parts to repair the stalled turbines and the 230 kilovolt Al-Rigga to Al-Hasaka line to serve Qamishli and the surrounding areas with electricity.

In an interview with a correspondent for The Syrian Voice, Soliman listed the electrical power sources that feed the Jazira Canton. The first source is four gas turbines owned by the Rumilan Oil company, which produce 40 megawatts/hour (MW/H). This powers wells, oil stations, gas plants, as well as the villages and towns connected to this plant’s electrical network. In addition, the cities of Malikiya (Derek) and Al-Kahtaniya (Tarbesbeh) and their surrounding country sides also receive electricity from this station.

The second source is the three gas turbines of the Swedish generation plant, which produces 50 KW/H of energy and serves the cities and towns of Qamishli, Tel Hamis, Tel Kogger, Hawl, and Shaddadi, as well as the rural areas around them.

The third source is the electrical power imported from the Kobane province, generated by the turbines of the Tabqa Dam. This energy imported to the Jazira Canton is estimated at around 40 MW/H for a period of 5 hours daily, and is distributed among the cities of Ras al-Ayn (Sri Kani), Tal Tamur, Amouda, Darbasiyah, Tel Al-Abyad (Cree Sabi), as well as the their rural areas.

Mr. Soliman mentioned that the quantity of energy produced varies according to the amount of water flowing through the Euphrates River from the Turkish side. He suggested that “Turkey cuts off water from Syria for sporadic periods to create chaos in the flow of water and so that the Tabqa Dam cannot benefit from the flow to generate electricity.”

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