DROUGHT VULNERABILITY IN THE
Case Study- Drought in Syria
Ten Years of Scarce Water (2000 – 2010)
By: Wadid Erian
Contributed: Bassem katlan and Ould Bedy Babah
The League of Arab States
The Arab Center for the Studies of Arid Zones and Dry Lands – ACSAD
Droughts have been a part of our environment since the beginning of recorded history, and
humanity’s survival may be testimony only to its capacity to endure this climatic phenomenon.
Drought is considered by many to be the most complex but least understood of all natural
hazards, affecting more people than any other hazard (Hagman 1984).
Definitions and Types Drought is the consequence of a natural reduction in the amount of precipitation over extended period of time, usually a season or more in length, often associated with other climatic factors (such as high temperatures, high winds and low relative humidity) that can aggravate the severity of the event, (Sivakumar, 2005). It is a normal event that takes place in almost every climate on Earth, even the rainy ones. Drought manifestation varies from region to region and therefore a global definition is a difficult task e.g. Drought is a recurring extreme climate event over land characterized by below-normal precipitation over a period of months to years. Drought is a temporary dry period, in contrast to the permanent aridity in arid areas. Drought occurs over most parts of the world, even in wet and humid regions. This is because drought is defined as a dry spell relative to its local normal condition. On the other hand, arid areas are prone to drought because their rainfall amount critically depends on a few rainfall events, (Sun et al 2006). One might define drought in Libya as occurring when annual rainfall is less than 180 mm, if less than 2.5 mm of rainfall in 48 hours in USA, about 15 consecutive days with daily precipitation totals of less than 25 mm in GB, actual seasonal rainfall deficient by more than twice the mean deviation in India, but in Indonesia, Bali drought might be considered to occur after a period of only 6 days without rain, (Ragab, 2005).
Generally there are three types of conditions that are referred to as drought, Meteorological drought is brought about when there is a prolonged period with below average precipitation; Agricultural drought is brought about when there is insufficient moisture for average crop or range production, this condition can arise, even in times of average precipitation, due to soil conditions or agricultural techniques; and Hydrologic drought is brought about when the water reserves available in sources such as aquifers, lakes and reservoirs falls below the statistical average, this condition can arise even in times of average (or above average) precipitation, when increased usage of water diminishes the reserves,American Meteorological Society (AMS 1997). (Wilhite, 2000 and Sivakumar, 2005). A lack of precipitation often triggers agricultural and hydrological droughts, but other factors, including more intense but less frequent precipitation, poor water management, and erosion, can also cause or enhance these droughts. For example, overgrazing led to elevated erosion and dust storms that amplified the Dust Bowl drought of the 1930s over the Great Plains in North America, (Cook et al 2009).
G. Drought Managements
The traditional approach to drought management has been reactive, relying largely on crisis management. This approach has been ineffective because response is untimely, poorly coordinated, and poorly targeted to drought stricken groups or areas, (Wilhite 2005). He added that two important trends in drought management could be considered: (1) improved drought monitoring tools and early warning systems EWSs and (2) an increased emphasis on drought preparedness and mitigation.
Effective drought EWSs are an integral part of efforts worldwide to improve drought preparedness, activities of regional centers in eastern and southern Africa and efforts in WANA are increasing, but not enough. An Expert group meeting on EWSs sponsored by WMO and others, Wilhite et al, (2000) summarized the outcome the shortcoming on the following areas: lack of data networks on all major climate and water supply parameters; inadequate data sharing and high cost of data limits the application of data in drought preparedness, mitigation and response; EWSs products are not user friendly; inadequate indices for detecting the early onset and end of drought; no historical drought data base exists. It is well known that drought policy has been adapted in Australia since 1992, it has three objectives: (1) to encourage primary products and other sections of rural Australia to adapt self-reliant approaches to managing for climatic variability; (2) to maintain and protect Australia’s agricultural and environmental resource base during periods of extreme climate stress; and (3) to ensure early recovery of agricultural and rural industries, consistent with long-term sustainable goals, (O’Meagher et al 2000).
In India, Syria, and in the Arab Center for The Studies of Arid Zones and Dry Lands ACSAD, major research efforts on improving the productivity of rainfed areas with focus on reducing the adverse effects of drought have been underway for at least 2-3 decades including improving and introducing appropriate crops, improved varieties and new varieties of cereal that are tolerant to drought and heat; improving conservation of soil and water increasing areas of conservation agriculture, improving water efficiency and improvement in terms of living conditions of the rural areas who suffer most due to scarcity and drought in particular. In the United States, there has been significant progress as well in addressing the impacts of drought through the development of preparedness plans, the basic goal of the drought plans created in most of the states should be to improve the effectiveness of preparedness and response efforts by enhancing monitoring and early warning, risk and impact assessment, and mitigation and response. Many plans are more pro-active, adapting a more risk management approach to drought management.
in arid, semi-arid and marginal areas with a probability of drought incidence It is recommended to re-planning their land use and developing methods of predicting many weeks/months in advance, the occurrence of rainfall deserves high priority. The agricultural planning and practices need to be worked out with consideration of overall water requirement within the individual agro-climatic zones. Crops that need shorter duration to mature and require less water need to be encouraged in the drought prone areas. Food reserves to meet the emergency of maximum up to two consecutive droughts must be planned.
H. LEARNED LESSONS in many Arab countries as well as Syria,
− Water resources already are stressed in some areas and therefore are highly vulnerable, especially with respect to competition for water supply between agriculture, power generation, urban areas, and environmental flows (high confidence) and salinization. Increased evaporation and possible decreases in rainfall in many areas would adversely affect water supply, agriculture, and the survival and reproduction of key species in parts of Arab region and Syria that depend on uncertain sources.
− Surface water (rainfall and rivers) and ground water. Rainfall water became a subject for high variability that accompanied with increase on drought frequency, and the two actions become major threat for the rainfed agriculture and rangelands and might cause extreme pressures on the socio-economic stability in Syria. Beside that all the ground water sources depends on rainfall. At the meantime all rivers that cross through Syria are trans-boundary rivers and flow from neighboring countries, they could be a subject for conflicts if drought influencing their agriculture and life stability.
− Drought has a great present impact on socio-economic stability and expected to increase steeply in the near future with the expected increase of drought severity as illustrated in most scenarios. Social activities like women strengthen and empowerment must take place within the newly formed gatherings for reducing their economical, social and sexual up-used, at the meantime there are a need for more social advising between families and migrated groups.
− The first recognized impacts will be on the agriculture sector. That particular sector played on the past and still playing an important role in many Arab countries and particularly in Syrian socio-economy stability.
− The recognized migration from rural areas that took place during the years (2007 – 2010) in Syria will increase in the future beside water shortage and food scarce. That will turn to be major challenge and that might cause internal socio-economic instability if serious policies are not but immediately into planning and implementation. Such problem could be recognized in many Arab countries.
− Drought like many risk management needs a cross-cutting approach and therefore requires a wide range of inputs (e.g. cultural, socio-economic, etc.). Accordingly drought management capacities must be strengthened, including capacities to develop integrated plans. Evaluation of risk management measures and practices must be undertaken to determine if they are effective.
− Those policies should includes early warning systems and a set of actions to improve the preparedness within the most vulnerable areas, e.g. improve community socio-economical preparedness (assets, governance and technology), create alternative economic micro and macro opportunities, change land use and crop pattern, introducing new seed varieties more tolerant for drought, increase water irrigation efficiency and income per water cubic meter.
− Political issues as well play a great role within the drought risk management and must be committed to create the necessary capacities in order to reduce the risk. That could be seen from the Governments make the drought problems visible to the public eye and the politicians. Governments should invest and promote inter-disciplinary dialogue to improve awareness and to define the issue and communication to address drought risk. And effective risk management should keep in focus.
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