Rabat, Aug 7 (EFE).- Morocco’s worst drought in decades has prompted authorities to adopt restrictions ranging from lowering the flow of drinking water to prohibiting its use for garden irrigation and vehicle washing.
The North African country is facing a hotter and drier summer than usual, with successive heat waves that have ignited fires in different provinces of the country leaving five dead, over 10,000 hectares of forest devastated and 3,200 families evacuated.
The situation is so dire in Casablanca, the country’s economic capital and its most populous (over 3 million inhabitants) that its council has prohibited gardens irrigation with drinking water during the day, vehicle washing and street cleaning.
“We are facing a water emergency situation, the stored water is insufficient, we must take care of the resources we have,” Moulay Ahmed Afilal, Casablanca deputy mayor tells Efe.
Any infraction of the measures will be punished with sanctions and fines, he adds.
Casablanca is not the only municipality to take measures to ration water as some towns have reduced the flow of water in homes, while central Beni Melal has witnessed night-time water cuts.
The Moroccan government spokesman, Mustafa Baitas, recently cited other urgent actions such as supplying drinking water to the main cities from distant reservoirs and conducting surveys to find new wells to avoid “disturbances or cuts of drinking water” in the country.
Several experts, however, have criticized the government’s delay in taking these measures.
“The government should have approved these measures a long time ago, when it was already clear that the situation was bad. Fifty cities are threatened by the ghost of thirst,” laments Moroccan engineer Mohamed Benabou, an expert in climate and sustainable development.
The filling rate of the different reservoirs in Morocco is at its lowest in four decades, 28.2% compared to 46% last year, Benabou warns.
The country’s 18-billion-cubic-meters 150 reservoirs currently store only 4 billion cubic meters due to low rainfall, according to the expert.
For the engineer and landscaper Salima Belmkeddem, president of the Maroc Environnement 2050 NGO, the solution lies in a reform of the agrarian and industrial policies.
But while politicians advocate for exploiting aquifers as one of the solutions, Belkeddem believes that this is not the way out.
Belmkeddem believes that the government must take urgent measures to rationalize the use of water in agriculture, train small farmers to protect water quality and force industrialists to install purification units in their factories before starting their activity.
“We need an appropriate policy to the current ecological urgency, we can no longer delay, we do not have the right to export our water with exotic crops, we cannot authorize intensive cultivation carried out by foreign investors. It is a crime and it must be said”, she complains. EFE