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Fresh fears for refugees as water supply may be cut off

A STATE owned water authority in northern Albania has threatened to cut supplies to refugee camps over the summer after claiming it will not have enough water for its regular customers.

The authority has called on the international aid community for £300,000 to develop a new source 7km away from the camps. It warned that without the cash, taps will run dry in camps in Kukes on the Kosovan border by 30 June, leaving 35,000 refugees without water.

But International Committee of the Red Cross engineer Glen Hanna, who is assessing water supplies for the whole of Albania, said the authority was exaggerating the effect of the refugees.

'We believe there's plenty of water in the town and that the refugees are taking only half a per cent of the supply,' he said.

Hanna claimed water authorities in other towns were also making his job difficult by limiting his access to records and giving confusing and contradictory information.

'It is hard to tell whether they are telling the truth or just after more money,' he said.

But British Department for International Development/NATO liaison team leader Bob Churcher, a long-term resident of the Balkans, defended the water authorities.

'There is no spare capacity in any of the town systems. I have a lot of sympathy with their point of view,' he said.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees is negotiating an aid package for the Kukes water authority and is trying to relocate many of the refugees to camps on lower land.

Christine Neveu from the Albanian government-led Emergency Management Group said this was likely to lead to the authority backing down on its threats.

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