Supplying adequate water is a serious challenge in Syria's naturally arid environment, with reduced rainfall in recent years along with practices such as extracting groundwater beyond its ability to replenish resulting in even more pressure.
Between 2002 and 2008, water availability per person dropped nearly 40%, from 1,200 cubic meters to 750 cubic meters, compared to a global average of over 6,000. Currently, the rural east is facing its driest winter in decades after already four consecutive years of drought.
Around 1.3 million people have been affected, with many villages abandoned in what the UN has identified as the worst migration in the Middle East in recent years. Nearly half a million people were forced to move to cities in a desperate attempt to maintain livelihoods and continue caring for their families. Unfortunately, similar conditions are plaguing communities throughout the Arab world, and experts warn that severe water scarcity could lead to inflation, unemployment, and turmoil in the region.
Mr. Khalid I. Elfadli of the Climate and Agrometeorology Department in Libya's National Meteorological Centre explains the situation as seen in his homeland.
Khalid I. Elfadli, National Meteorological Centre, Climate & Agro-meteorology Department, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (M): Our country about 95 percent or more is a desert, the Sahara, desert Sahara. So, we have a little of rainfall land. But, the last 10 years or the last five years, we already suffered from droughts and increase of temperature, and it's remarkably clear that climate change appear clearly in my country.
VOICE: To address some of these challenges, the Syrian government and regional NGOs recently partnered to develop a “water scarcity park” in a Damascus suburb. There, various drought-tolerant plants are being cultivated with various water conservation methods. These include a solar-powered drip irrigation system, which brings water directly to the plants through a system of tubes, reducing evaporation.
Syria's Vice President Dr Najah Al-Attar presided over the opening of the park, during which she commended its establishment while conveying the wish that it could become a role model to help show the importance of water conservation and solutions.
Our accolades, Your Excellency, Mr. Elfadli, Syrian government, and NGOs, for your work together to address and implement solutions to scarce water supplies. May we all strive to replenish the Earth's precious resources and safeguard the future of all her inhabitants. During a November 2008 interview with Ireland's East Coast Radio FM, Supreme Master Ching Hai spoke with urgency about the dire situation facing brethren directly affected by climate change, and what must be done to reverse it.