Development Cooperation Handbook/Stories/Valuing Water
Valuing Water - Damascus Rural Water and Sanitation
A project of the Government Ministry of Housing and Construction of the Arab Republic of Syria
Damascus, Syria, November 2010
Co-financed by the European Investment Bank
In Syria now, it is a time of division, violence and suffering. When we were there in November 2010 and in August 2011, we recorded many stories of cooperation and development. Nowadays, only sad and violent stories are narrated about this wonderful country. What then shall we do with these stories we collected in Syria in what now seems to be a different "age" altogether? Well, we decided to re-edit the videos we had made, include them in the Handbook we are developing and share them through the Internet. These videos will help us remember what Syria was before the civil war. And we hope that these stories will help restore trust amongst communities in Syria, and build, amongst those who love this country, the motivation to do whatever they can to restore peace and cooperation.
The Village Business Incubator project was one component of a vast cooperation program between EU and Syria aimed at expanding mutual trade, but included also social development, policy modernization and the protection of the cultural heritage. In 2012 the EU has suspended the cooperation with the Syrian Government; but the projects with Syrian civil society are continuing.
Peaceful sharing of water resources is the principal form of cooperation within any community. But control on water resources is also the prime source of economic and political power. In the Middle East, water has always been scarce and precious. Now that growth and development have exponentially increased the demand for water, the major policy challenges are around ensuring cheap and accessible water for the entire population and avoiding the misuse and wastage of water.
The European Union supported the Syrian Water Authority in improving its water and sanitation facilities and services. While the European Investment Bank provided funds for infrastructures, the European experts were sharing knowledge in business, engineering, management, and human resource development.
Whatever be the technical equipment used and the managerial arrangements adopted, what finally determines the efficient use of water is the sense of responsibility with which people use it. Public education is therefore an essential component of water conservation programmes. Opinion makers and trusted leaders were invited to come on board for spreading the message of this responsibility. Among those who responded positively, were community councils, schools and mosques.
Yes, mosques! We visited the Damascus mosque where the Imam had organized the recycling of ablution water to irrigate a big garden in the mosque premises. "Everything on earth is a gift of God which we must share in a spirit of brotherhood", he told us.
We also visited school in Damascus that won the first prize in a festival called the "Children Water Awareness Festival". Here kids played different roles including being a drop of water, a farmer, the sun. And here, children told us “we are really good citizens when we use the resources of our country in such a way that others also can use the same resources.”
Sorry dear children! Our generation did not leave you with the same richness that we inherited from our parents. And you might no longer be able to live in the atmosphere of peace and amicability among different communities of Syria that we so enjoyed just a few years back.
On YouTube ⇒ - Damascus Rural Water and Sanitation - playlist
Additional notes on the project
The European Investment Bank (EIB) financed the construction of four wastewater treatment plants to serve more than 400,000 inhabitants in the Southwest of Damascus. Germany was also providing funds for a wastewater treatment plant and sewers in the Yarmouk area, south of Damascus. since the start of its activities in Syria in 1978, the European Investment Bank has funds of around EUR 1.7 billion, with a significant increase since the establishment of FEMIP in 2002. The EIB and the Water authority agreed on two main objectives for the outcome of this project: (i) Improved and sustainable water and sanitation services in the area covered by the EIB financed investment project; (ii) A contribution to best practice experiences in Syria in the sector of water supply and sanitation management. The objective of the project is to improve the technical and financial performance of the Damascus Water Supply and Sewerage Authority’s water and sanitation services in the area of Rural Damascus. The project has developed operation and maintenance procedures that serve as best practice experiences in Syria. GFA experts provided inputs in business planning and benchmarking, technical work planning, water loss reduction, customer information, billing and accounting as well as human resource development.
In April 2009, the Syrian Government merged the two public water utilities operating in the Greater Damascus area - the Damascus Water and Sanitation Establishment (DWSSA) that operated in the Damascus governorate and the Rural Damascus Water Establishment (R-DWSSA) that operated in the Rural Damascus Governorate, into a single utility bearing the name DWSSA. The decision was prompted by the need to better coordinate operations in the physically integrated service area of Greater Damascus, and to speed up the implementation of projects in the rural Damascus governorate that had suffered from the limited execution capacity of R-DWSSA.
Additional notes on the environmental ethics in Islam
In Islam, the relationship between human beings and water is part of daily social existence, which is based on the Muslim belief that everything on earth worships the same God. This worship is not merely ritual practice because rituals are simply the symbolic human manifestation of submission to God. Rather, worship consists of actions that can be performed by all creatures that share the planet with the human race. Moreover, humans are responsible for the welfare and sustenance of the other citizens of this global environment. Water is the most precious and valuable resource of the physical environment for all living things.
The link between life and water is explicitly stated in several verses of the Holy Quran, for example, "We made from water everything"; "And Allah sends down rain from the skies, and gives therewith life to the earth after its death." Islam places strong emphasis on the achievement of perfect harmony between spiritual and physical purification. Physical purification cannot be achieved except by ablution and bathing (ghusl), both of which require clean water. Therefore, purity and cleanliness of water receive a great deal of attention in both the Holy Quran and the Sunnah, and Muslims are urged not to pollute water. "The Messenger of Allah forbade to urinate in stagnant water";4 "Let no one of you bathe in stagnant water to remove the state of ceremonial impurity";5 and "Guard against the three practices which invite people's curses: evacuating one's bowels near water sources, by the roadside and in the shade."
All living things are partners to man in existence and they deserve their own respect. As befits a faith born in the desert, water is honored as "the secret of life. Islam forbids the wastage of water and the usage thereof without benefit. The preservation of water for the drinking of mankind, animal life, bird life and vegetation is a form of worship which gains the pleasure of Allah. Conservation is an important part of Islamic teaching. It is a way of living that should be implemented through the Muslim's whole life: not as an ad hoc solution to shortages, nor in occasional situations (Madani 1989), but at all times, both good and bad. Islamic teachings emphasize adherence to balance and the just satisfaction of individual and group desires and needs. Such teachings are based on various texts of the Holy Quran: "O children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer: eat and drink: but waste not by excess for Allah loveth not wasters"