Following five years of drought which has driven nearly half a million people away from drought-hit areas and put the country at risk of increasing desertification, Syria has inaugurated a water scarcity park to highlight the need to conserve dwindling water supplies.
Using drip irrigation techniques, the 1,000 square metre ‘water scarcity park’ will harvest rainwater and also use solar power to generate electricity to pump water for irrigation. Drip irrigation is a technique used to conserve water as draws water directly from it sources and takes it the plants through a network of pipes with small holes so that water waste is minimal.
The park which was opened by the country’s Vice-President Dr Najah Al-Attar, is located in Dummar, a suburb of Damascus and is planted with various drought-resistant flora. It is hoped that the park will be used as model for public and private parks and help rationalize the consumption of water and energy.
The water scarcity crisis in Syria has been blamed on a combination of poor water management, lack of rainfall and the over-extraction of water. In the past, Syria was comfortably supported by the Euphrates River in the top half of the country but the diversion of large amounts of water into agriculture and industrial sector means that the supplies are not sufficient to support the population. According to reports in The National, scientists reported that between 2002 and 2008, water availability dropped from 1200 cubic meters to 750 cubic meters per person in Syria.
Unlike the rich Gulf states which are able to afford expensive desalination plants, Syria is struggling with water scarcity and urban household face water cuts each evening. Severe drought in the rural east of the country has also drastically affected 1.3 million people with 800,000 of whom had had their livelihoods devastated and half a million forced to move into the cities just to eke out a living. According to a February report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, this has been the “largest internal displacements in the Middle East in recent years.”
Sadly, Syria is not an isolated case in the region as the entire Middle East is facing water shortages. A report by the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) remarked that Arab region is one of the driest in the world- 70% of the land is dry and rainfall is sparse- and the effects of climate change will only exacerbate the situation. After delays in the rainy season serious concerns were raised with regards to water availability in Lebanon and Jordanians were also urged to pray for rainwater. The AFED report added: “Without fundamental changes in policies and practices, the situation will get worse, with drastic social, political and economic ramifications.”
Image via upyernoz on flickr.
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