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Repeat offenders apprehended for pumping water from sealed wells

By Hana Namrouqa - May 22,2014 - Last updated at May 22,2014

AMMAN — Authorities have apprehended owners of illegal wells in west Amman’s Wadi Al Seer Municipality, who were pumping water from sealed wells, a government official said on Thursday.

The well owners were released on bail last month after they were fined and signed pledges that they would not repeat the violation, according to a source at the Ministry of Water and Irrigation, who noted that they were arrested after failing to abide by the law for the third time.

“The owners of the illegal wells were arrested for repeating the offense after the ministry sealed the wells several times and for selling water that doesn’t meet the country’s strict drinking water standards, and without obtaining a licence,” the source told The Jordan Times over the phone.

The wells were drilled for pumping water and selling it to the public via tankers.

The wells were sealed under an ongoing campaign, launched in August 2013 to end violations on water networks and seal all illegal wells.

“A total of 18 drilling rigs were confiscated since the beginning of this year and 145 rigs since the launch of the campaign. During May alone authorities sealed 12 illegal wells, and 243 wells since the launch of the campaign,” the source underscored.

Meanwhile, some 9,649 illegal water pipes, which were diverting tens of thousands of cubic metres every day, have been removed since the onset of the campaign.

“During this month, the authorities removed 237 illegal water pipes, which were attached to water mains to pump water for the irrigation of private farms and crops,” the source noted.

Drilling wells in any part of the country is not allowed and the government no longer tolerates it, the source said, highlighting that the “serious crackdown” on water violations will continue across the country, especially with the onset of the dry season.

The government recently announced that it was committed to putting an end to all water violations, describing water theft as a form of corruption. To this end, the government drafted new amendments to the Water Authority of Jordan (WAJ) Law.

The Lower House endorsed the draft amendments to the law, which grants WAJ and its employees the authority to enforce the law when they detect any water violations without the need to seek police support.

Also under the amendments, WAJ can confiscate any machinery and equipment used by violators to dig illegal wells. 

Under Article 30 of the current version of the WAJ Law, violators are fined up to JD5,000 and jailed for two years, while Article 456 of the Penal Code stipulates that violators of water networks face three- to six-month prison terms and fines ranging between JD100 and JD1,000.

The Council of Ministers has also endorsed several decisions and regulations to curb infringements on water resources and maximise penalties against offenders.

These include depriving owners of illegal wells of agricultural or any other governmental loans, and supplying electricity for wells only after clearance is obtained from WAJ, proving they are licensed.

The new regulations also prohibit the import of water pumps for wells unless the Ministry of Water and Irrigation grants permission, and also tracks their destination.

In addition, the regulations stipulate that work permits of guest workers employed on farms with illegal wells will be revoked, among other new penalties.

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