After canal drowning, residents once again call for change

(Photo: Jordan News)
(Photo: Jordan News)
AMMAN — With the scorching summer heat, many of the children of Deir Alla, located in Balqa Governorate, play around the King Abdullah Canal.

Among these children, was Muhammad Bashar Al-Shatti, who drowned in the canal in mid-June.اضافة اعلان

Mustafa Al-Shatti, the boy’s cousin and former mayor of Deir Alla, told Jordan News that he has pleaded with the Jordan Valley Authority to take action to end the deaths and drownings in the canal.

“We had a video interview with one of the local stations in which we protested about the dangerous position of” the canal, said Shatti.  

Just a week later, his cousin died.

Shatti demanded that a fence be placed between the canal and the residential area and school, as they are very close to the canal — no more than 10 meters away from it. He said that seeing the canal and crossing it still causes Muhammad Bashar’s parents and siblings’ pain.  

Fawaz Abu Ammash, a social activist in Deir Alla, said that the canal's benefits have been turned into a curse.

A history of accidents
Since its construction in 1963, children have fled the Jordan Valley's burning heat to seek refuge in the waters of the canal.  The people in the area are unable to construct or even use cooling units due to high electricity prices, and the area lacks any recreational areas or playgrounds for children.

According to Abu Ammash, the people of the area are unanimous in their demand for a canal fence and periodic maintenance of the old, worn-out fence, which the authority has left unmaintained for more than 8 years, they said. The cost of a fence needed to enclose the canal ranges in the hundreds of thousands.

“We are aware of parents’ responsibility to prevent children from going to the canal, but the authority has the greatest responsibility,” she said.

 The Jordan Valley Authority obtained a verdict from the Court of Cassation nearly four years ago that it was not responsible for the drowning cases.

Over the last 15 years, around 150 people — 70 percent of which were children — have died in the canal, according to Abu Ammash.

A person from the area, speaking to Jordan News, claimed that at one point there was a project to build a cement wall around the canal, which would of cost around JD80,000. However, the source said that the project was abandoned without explanation.

Secretary General of the Jordan Valley Authority, Manar Mahasnah, told Jordan News that the authority is not responsible for drownings, stressing that swimming is prohibited in the area.

She added that many people tend to tamper with the fences around the channel, and cooperative measures must be taken to prevent such accidents.

Read more National