The General Commission for the Administration and Development of Al-Ghab (GCADA), in cooperation with the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), has completed the rehabilitation and maintenance of a section of a main irrigation canal that waters agricultural lands, some of which are owned by individuals forcibly displaced from the area. The lands were previously listed for public auction by the Hama governorate for investment purposes.
The GCADA, with its main office in the city of Al-Suqaylabiyeh in rural Hama, is an administrative and service-oriented body tied to the Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform. It is a legal entity with financial independence and administrative autonomy.
According to an official report published in the Tishreen newspaper on October 22, the rehabilitation included the removal of damaged concrete tiles along both sides of the canal, restoring the tiles and walls to their original state using technical methods and adhering to approved specifications to ensure smooth water flow without any waste or loss. Workers also maintained the gates and iron doors on the canal.
The director of the Irrigation and Drainage Department at the Commission stated that the rehabilitation works covered a section of the J-2 canal from the Tari Al-Ala – Al-Asharneh irrigation network, extending over a distance of six kilometres, between the towns of Khirbet Dams and Asilah. The total length of the J-2 canal is 49 kilometres, stretching from the city of Mhardeh to the Al-Bared River highway west of Hama. It irrigates about 14,840 hectares of agricultural land in the Al-Ghab area in the Hama governorate.
A correspondent for The Syria Report in the region pointed out that on both sides of the J-2 canal, especially west of the city of Mhardeh, agricultural lands belonging to villages and farms whose inhabitants were forcibly displaced to opposition-held areas in northwest Syria. Some of these villages and farms are almost entirely deserted, such as the town of Al-Treimseh and the farms of Al-Rawda, Al-Khwaitat, Al-Karama, and lands belonging to the towns of Al-Asharneh and Jirjisiya. The Hama governorate has put the lands of those absentees up for investment in public auctions held annually.
According to official statements, the area of agricultural land benefiting from the canal rehabilitation project exceeds 2,093 hectares, belonging to around 2,000 farmers and investors. The GCADA aims to rehabilitate and maintain 28,000 square metres of canals, irrigation networks, culverts, and existing metal protection fences in the Mhardeh area, extending to the city of Salhab, with funding from the FAO. Associations were formed for irrigation water investors who will be trained by FAO workshops on optimal usage of the canals and maintaining their safety and equipment for the longest possible time.
The Syria Report’s correspondent mentioned plans to rehabilitate other sections of the J-1 irrigation canal in Sahl Al-Ghab. One of the sections currently being rehabilitated is located in the Al-Asharneh plain southeast of Sahl Al-Ghab, connecting the towns of Sheizar and Al-Asharneh, and irrigating an area of about 24,000 hectares. It is not clear whether FAO or another international organisation will fund this project.
This is not the first time that rehabilitation work were carried out with funding from non-governmental and international organisations on projects that violate the property rights of absent landowners who have been forcibly displaced. In November 2022, with funding from the French Islamic Aid Organisation Secours Islamique France, 3,060 metres of the J-4 canal in the Qalaat Al-Madiq area in Sahl Al-Ghab were maintained, irrigating lands of those forcibly displaced from the area extending from west of Qalaat Al-Madiq city to the town of Al-Hawash to the north.