Water cutoffs add to Tunisia’s mounting crises
Tunisians are facing new water restrictions because of a multiyear drought, a development that threatens farms and urban dwellers alike while adding to global concern over the country’s economic and political woes.
Sonede, the Tunisian water authority, will now cut off the water in Tunis between the hours of 9 p.m. and 4 a.m. as part of a plan expected to last through September. Sonede CEO Mosbah Helali, speaking to local media, said the measure was necessary as the levels in dams used to store water have fallen dramatically since 2019.
Water conservation measures have been applied elsewhere in the North African nation, sparking an outcry over the agricultural use of water, affected crops and food insecurity. Water restrictions also were placed on people in the southern suburbs of Tunis last month, but it’s the first time for planned water cutoffs in Tunis, a city of more than 2 million people.
The water restrictions come as Tunisia, led by an increasingly authoritarian President Kaïs Saïed, deals with high rates of unemployment, runaway inflation and crushing debt. The International Monetary Fund has agreed to a US$2 billion deal to prevent economic and social collapse, but it’s not yet complete.
Meanwhile, Saïed continues to silence the political opposition since expanding his power in 2022, and earlier this month said he’d suspend municipal councils that typically reflect significant representation by Tunisia’s Ennahda party, which opposes the president. Leaders from the United States and European Union warn of growing instability as Tunisia grapples with political stressors as well as new climate issues.