After Five Years Without, Syria's President Appoints Woman As New Environment Minister

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Syria, a country whose authoritarian government has often been rife with corruption and human rights violations, has again reshuffled its cabinet as President Bashar al Assad attempts to deal with a number of problems his country now faces.

With the economy being one of the top issues, some of the first “changes” appear to be appointing some new ministers in interior affairs, health, local governments (apparently rotten with corruption), justice, and presidential affairs.

The Syrian economy is in particularly bad shape, which also affects the country’s state of security as Syria owes arms suppliers like Russia and China considerable sums of money.

The concern about the country’s security also stems from the recent Israel attack on a Syrian nuclear facility as well as the January 2008 assassination of Hezbollah military commander Imad Mughniyah in Damascus.

But the state of Syria’s environment, especially pollution and desertification, has probably resulted in the reinstatement of the Ministry for Environmental Affairs to deal with a number of pressing issues; especially Syria’s increasing lack of adequate water supplies.

kawkab-al-sabah-mohammad-jamil-dayehSyria has not had an environmental ministry for over five years; and the new one, to be headed by a woman, Kawkab al-Sabah Mohammad Jamil Dayeh, will have the assistance of the President himself who has become more interested in the state of his country’s environment.

Syria recently replaced 16 ministers in 2006 in a major cabinet reshuffle. This new game of governmental musical chairs will result in no major changes, as no government minister as any authority to deal with any important independently; according to a Damascus based political observer, who requested to remain anonymous.

Syria receives most of its water supplies from wells, the Euphrates River (whose flow has been partially reduced by Turkey diverting water for its own use), and smaller rivers and streams, including those from Mt. Hermon.

Increasing population and agricultural needs have put a strain on available water supplies, which has resulted in Syrian President Al-Assad becoming more insistent on the return of the Golan Heights by Israel. The Golan, and the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, used to be a major source of water for Syria, prior to the June 1967 war with Israel.

Whatever happens in Damascus has little influence by ordinary Syrian citizens, however, as their destinies are entirely in the hands of the tightly ruled Syrian leadership.

“We never know if there is something wrong with a government minister or with the ministry itself. But in any case, the ordinary Syrian citizen is always the loser,” a Syrian academic was recently quoted as saying. Let’s hope with this new female environment minister, some good things for the environment and Middle East peace will come along with her.

::Middle East Online

More on the environment in Syria:
Syria Suffers Serious Drought
A Classic Recipe For Muhamarra from Syria
Syria and Jordan’s Dam Could Cut Israel Out of the Picture

[image credit x-slim]

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