” On 19 March 2011, a multi-state coalition began a military intervention in Libya to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973. …”
throwing yet another Muslim Middle Eastern country into chaos and sending yet more refugees steaming towards southern Europe.
14th May 2015
The military targeting of civilian infrastructure, especially of water supplies, is a war crime under the Geneva Conventions, writes Nafeez Ahmed. Yet this is precisely what NATO did in Libya, while blaming the damage on Gaddafi himself. Since then, the country’s water infrastructure – and the suffering of its people – has only deteriorated further.
The deliberate destruction of a nation’s water infrastructure, with the knowledge that doing so would result in massive deaths of the population as a direct consequence, is not simply a war crime, but potentially a genocidal strategy.
Numerous reports comment on the water crisis that is escalating across Libya as consumption outpaces production. Some have noted the environmental context in regional water scarcity due to climate change.
But what they ignore is the fact that the complex national irrigation system that had been carefully built and maintained over decades to overcome this problem was targeted and disrupted by NATO.
During the 2011 military invasion, press reports surfaced, mostly citing pro-rebel sources, claiming that pro-Gaddafi loyalists had shut down the water supply system as a mechanism to win the war and punish civilians.
This is a lie.
But truth, after all, is the first casualty of war – especially for mainstream media journos who can’t be bothered to fact-check the claims of people they interview in war zones, while under pressure from editors to produce copy that doesn’t rock too many boats.
Critical water installations bombed – then blamed on Gaddafi
It was in fact NATO which debilitated Libya’s water supply by targeting critical state-owned water installations, including a water-pipe factory in Brega.
The factory, one of just two in the country (the other one being in Gaddafi’s home-town of Sirte), manufactured pre-stressed concrete cylinder pipes for the Great Manmade River (GMR) project, an ingenious irrigation system transporting water from aquifers beneath Libya’s southern desert to about 70% of the population.
On 18th July, a rebel commander boasted that some of Gaddafi’s troops had holed up in industrial facilities in Brega, but that rebels had blocked their access to water: “Their food and water supplies are cut and they now will not be able to sleep.”
In other words, the rebels, not Gaddafi loyalists, had sabotaged the GMR water pipeline into Brega. On 22nd July, NATO followed up by bombing the Brega water-pipes factory on the pretext that it was a Gaddafi “military storage” facility concealing rocket launchers.
“Major parts of the plant have been damaged”, said Abdel-Hakim el-Shwehdy, head of the company running the project. “There could be major setback for the future projects.”
Legitimate military target left untouched in the attack
When asked to provide concrete evidence of Gaddafi loyalists firing from inside the water-pipe factory, NATO officials failed to answer. Instead, NATO satellite images shown to journalists confirm that a BM-21 rocket launcher identified near the facility days earlier, remained perfectly intact the day after the NATO attack.
Earlier, NATO forces had already bombed water facilities in Sirte, killing several “employees of the state water utility who were working during the attack.”
By August, UNICEF reported that the conflict had “put the Great Manmade River Authority, the primary distributor of potable water in Libya, at risk of failing to meet the country’s water needs.”
The same month, Agence France Presse reported that the GMR “could be crippled by the lack of spare parts and chemicals” – reinforced by NATO’s destruction of water installations critical to the GMR in Sirte and Brega. Read More on Ecologist site