Rabat – Water cans in hand, residents of Zagoura took to the streets on October 8 to protest against the shortage of water in the southern city. Clashes between security forces and the protestors led to the injury of many and the arrest of 23 people.
At around 6 p.m., the crowd flocked through Zagora, taking the normal course of a demonstration. Weaving the Moroccan flag and carrying portraits of the king, the protesters chanted slogans to denounce the scarcity of water in Zagoura and the surrounding regions.
“We are out to protest against the scarcity of water in our city. The water that runs in our taps is extremely salty. The problem is, even if we were to subsist with salty water, it is itself not available. It takes up to one hour and a half to fill a bottle of 20 liters,” one protester told local media outlet Zagoura News, with clear expressions of anger and frustration on his face.
Yet while water is available only a few hours during the day and undrinkable, the water bill is extremely high, the protesters explained.
“The water bill is very expensive. We pay MAD 700 per month. We’re in terrible conditions,” a woman in the protests told the same outlet.
Around 8 p.m., demonstrators began to disperse smoothly, but the police then began to pursue small crowds in the alleys of the city to prevent smaller improvised demonstrations.
Clashes erupted, with protesters throwing projectiles at security forces, lighting firecrackers, and setting up barricades to prevent security vehicles from advancing into neighborhoods.
As a result of the clashes, four members of the police were lightly injured and one woman protester was wounded. Protesters accused a law enforcement officer of beating her and kicking her hard in the back while dispersing the protesters, according to local authorities.
Twenty-three people were arrested, 11 were taken into custody, and 12 minors were placed under judicial supervision.
The demonstration took place on the eve of the trial of eight people, including a minor, who are being prosecuted for their involvement in demonstrations against water scarcity on September 24.
Since the beginning of September, the Zaguora region has seen a series of protests against the irregularity of the drinking water supply, the decline in flow, and the deterioration of its quality.
Zagora’s drinking water supply is produced from the underground resources of the Feija and Nebch fields consisting of 12 boreholes and wells with an overall flow of about 90 liters per second. These water resources are in continuous decline due to their over-exploitation for agricultural use.
The sharp decline of Morocco’s water reserves has recently emerged as a critical issue.
On October 5, three days after King Mohammed VI instructed Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani to chair a committee to find solutions to water scarcity in the kingdom, El Othmani promised that the group will soon begin work to “definitively resolve” the problem by 2018.
“The water issue is now strategic for the government following the royal instructions,” said the head of government.