How NATO Deliberately Destroyed
Libya's Water Infrastructure
By Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed
May 29, 2015 "Information
Clearing House" - The military targeting of
civilian infrastructure, especially of water supplies, is a war crime under
international law and the Geneva Conventions.
Yet this is what NATO did in Libya, and the results have
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
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
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
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
Earlier, NATO forces had already bombed
water facilities in Sirte, killing several
"employees of the state water
utility who were working during the attack."
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.
The GMR is now "struggling
to keep reservoirs at a level that can provide a sustainable supply",
UN officials said. "If
the project were to fail, agencies fear a massive humanitarian emergency."
Christian Balslev-Olesen, UNICEF Libya's head of office,
warned that the
city faced "an absolute worst-case scenario"
that "could turn into an unprecedented health
epidemic" without resumption of water supplies.
Stratfor email: 'So much shit doesn't add up here'
While pro-rebel sources attempted to blame Gaddafi
loyalists for the disruption of Libya's water supply,
leaked emails from the US intelligence contractor Stratfor, which
endorsed these sources, show that the firm privately doubted its own
"So much shit doesn't add
up here", wrote Bayless Parsley, Stratfor's
Middle East analyst, in an email to executives.
"I am pretty much not
confident in ANY of the sources ... If anything, just need to be very clear
how contradictory all the information is on this project ... a lot of the
conclusions drawn from it are not really air tight."
But the private US intelligence firm, which has played a
key role in liaising with senior Pentagon officials in facilitating military
intelligence operations, was
keenly aware of what the shutdown of the GMR would mean for Libya's
"Since the first phase of
the 'river's' construction in 1991, Libya's population has doubled. Remove
that river and, well, there would likely be a very rapid natural correction
back to normal carrying capacities."
"How often do Libyans
bathe? You'd have drinking water for a month if you skipped a shower",
joked Kevin Stech, a Stratfor research director.
"Seriously. Cut the baths and
the showers and your well water should suffice for drinking and
The truth - government officials were trying to
keep water flowing
that Libyan government officials were not sabotaging water facilities, but
in fact working closely with a UN technical team to
"facilitate an assessment of
water wells, review urgent response options and identify alternatives for
Nevertheless, by September, UNICEF reported that the
disruption to the
GMR had left 4 million Libyans without potable water.
remains disrupted to this day, and Libya's national water crisis
continues to escalate.
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.
It raises serious questions about the conventional
mythology of a clean, humanitarian war in Libya - questions that mainstream
journalists appear to be uninterested in, or unable to ask.
Dr. Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed is a bestselling author,
award-winning investigative journalist, and noted international security
scholar, as well as a policy expert, film maker, strategy and communications
consultant, and change activist. His debut science fiction thriller novel, ZERO
POINT, was released in 2014.
The focus of Nafeez's work is to catalyse social change in the public
interest by harnessing radical, systemic approaches to understanding the
interconnections between the world's biggest problems, while developing and
highlighting holistic strategies for social transformation.