Rabat - Morocco has established a new police unit that will be entrusted with supervising the use of water resources in the kingdom.
Rabat – Morocco has established a new police unit that will be entrusted with supervising the use of water resources in the kingdom.
First established in 1995, the water police will finally become operational in 2018. Equipped with material support and judicial authorization, 200 agents will start inspecting water resources throughout Morocco.
The problem is not new but a host of threats have made the issue critical. Global climate change, water misuse in various sectors of society, depletion of some aquifers, and widespread public ambivalence have all played a role.
The National Economic, Social and Environmental Council (NESEC) on water management in Morocco reported in 2014 on the need for a comprehensive and integrated water resources management plan. The council described water resources management as chaotic.
Dispatched through ten watershed agencies, units of the water police will be responsible to oversee water use across a given region.
In collaboration with the judiciary branch of the government, the water police’s main task will consist of combating the misuse of water resources and the supervision of appropriate utilization of the public hydraulic domain including lakes, ponds, lagoons, and marshes.
These unites will also have jurisdiction for moving fresh and sea water resources, streams of all kinds whether natural or artificial, permanent or non-permanent, as well as rivers, springs, boreholes, irrigation canals, seguias, dikes, reservoirs and dams.
Alluvium, sand, rocks and other natural elements that form near watercourses and hydraulic structures and sources will also be part of the police agency’s inspection program.
The misuse and exploitation of the public domain without prior authorization or concession and the sabotage of hydraulic structures will be the subject of prosecution and fines, if warranted.
As part of their control mission, the water agents can issue tickets, suspend work and confiscate water diversion equipment. The agents will not have the authorization of a judicial police officer (OPJ) to make arrests. But they may, if necessary, work in partnership with police and judicial officers on enforcement of regulations.
The water police will prepare reports against offenders on the basis of the articles of Law 36-15 on water and its Criminal Code. Offenses can lead to sanctions, including the withdrawal of authorization, repeal of concession contracts and the suspension of work or judicial sanctions, such as fines or custodial sentences.
Once registered, the report will be submitted, within 10 days, by the central administration or the watershed agencies to the public prosecutor who will decide on the civil or criminal proceedings.
In recent months, residents of several regions, especially rural areas, have complained about an increasing scarcity of drinking and irrigation water. Protests have taken place in Ouazzane, Beni Melal, Zagora, Sefrou, and Azelal to draw attention to the growing problem. Local associations, community advocates and citizens are all demanding more action from the government.
Agriculture is the economic back bone in many rural areas. Several local groups organized long-distance protest marches to regional government offices, sometimes facing blockades set up by the Gendarmerie.
Almost 97 percent of rural Morocco will have access to drinking water by the end of 2017. During a parliamentary session held in July, Charafat Afilal, Secretary of State in charge of Water, reported that the state was investing more than MAD 1 million in water supply projects throughout the kingdom.
Despite the government’s efforts, Morocco is among those countries most vulnerable to climate change according to the UN. The kingdom is facing increased water scarcity and a rise in average temperature, says a report by Global Nexus.
In the coming years, the rate of precipitation will decline by an estimated 10 to 20 percent. Bad luck, geography and local weather also play a role: sudden heavy bursts of rain in mountain regions often lead to the rapid melting of snowpack and ice. Without the ability to capture or store this runoff, groundwater stocks are slowly depleted.
The study estimates that Morocco’s water supply is at 18 billion square meters per year, 83 percent of which is surface water.