Across Libya’s capital residents have started drilling through pavements to access wells in a desperate search for water after the taps ran dry in a new low for living conditions.
After years of neglect, workers turned off the water to do urgent maintenance earlier this month, cutting supplies to many Tripoli households. Then an armed group sabotaged the system, prolonging the misery.
The water crisis is a powerful symbol of state failure in a country that was once one of the wealthiest in the Middle East but has been gripped by turmoil since a 2011 uprising unseated Muammar Gaddafi.
For Libyans the chaos has meant power cuts and crippling cash shortages. These are often made worse by battles between armed groups vying for control of the fractured oil-rich state and its poorly-maintained infrastructure.
“We haven’t had water for ten days. The state does nothing,” said Nasser Said, a landlord in Tripoli’s upmarket Ben Ashour district.
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Already equipped with a generator to keep the power running during outages that sometimes last more than a day, he hired drillers to dig some 31 meters to extract groundwater for the six apartments in the residential block he owns.
“No water, no electricity. You become a state in a state,” he said, standing next to his building on a leafy sidestreet. “We last had to do this maybe 20 years ago.”
Like many Libyans, Said is sceptical about the chances of UN-led peace talks unifying rival factions that have been fighting for control.
The talks were adjourned last week with little sign of progress in creating a government that could stabilise Libya and stand up to armed groups that have repeatedly seized oil facilities and other state assets to make demands.
The UN-supported Government of National Accord (GNA) has struggled to impose its authority since its leaders arrived in Tripoli in March last year.
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