荷蘭奈梅亨大學學者Francesca de Châtel發表在當期《中東研究》期刊的論文指出，「點燃敘利亞農村長期以來不滿情緒的導火線並非旱災本身，而是政府未能妥善處理旱災造成的人道危機。」
The long drought that gripped Syria from 2006 through 2010 was a trigger of the conflict that has torn the country apart with devastating consequences, finds new research from a Dutch scientist.
Writing in the current issue of the journal “Middle Eastern Studies,” Francesca de Châtel of Radboud University in the Netherlands explains that “it was not the drought per se, but rather the government’s failure to respond to the ensuing humanitarian crisis that formed one of the triggers of the uprising, feeding a discontent that had long been simmering in rural areas.”
The drought hit hardest in the northeast, the most impoverished and neglected part of the country, which was also the country’s breadbasket and source of oil, explains de Châtel.
“Since 2000, this region has been rapidly sinking further into poverty as groundwater reserves were depleted and a series of overambitious agricultural development projects overstretched both land and water resources. The drought that struck in 2006 merely formed a final coup de grace,” she writes.
“The humanitarian crisis that followed the 2006-10 drought can thus be seen as the culmination of 50 years of sustained mismanagement of water and land resources, and the dead end of the Syrian government’s water and agricultural policies,” writes de Châtel.
It is de Châtel view that the “relentless drive to increase agricultural output and expand irrigated agriculture” blinded policy makers to the limits of the country’s resources.
Overgrazing caused rapid desertification; the cancellation of subsidies for diesel and fertilizer as part of a botched transition to a social-market economy increased rural poverty; and many families abandoned their farms for the cities in search of work, she writes.
In short, says de Châtel, the “ongoing failure to rationalize water use and enforce environmental and water use laws” has depleted resources and caused “growing disenfranchisement and discontent in Syria’s rural communities.”
This destruction of Syria’s natural resources has led to a devastating war. More than two years after the first protests in the rural town of Dara’a in March 2011, what started as a peaceful uprising against the Assad regime has resulted in the deaths of more than 130,000 people, with more than 500,000 wounded. The year 2013 was the deadliest, with 73,000 fatalities.
At least 2.4 million refugees have fled to Egypt, Turkey and beyond, according to the United Nations.
In her study, de Châtel is particularly critical of the culture of secrecy that surrounds the subject of water within the Syrian government.
“Water has become a taboo that is reluctantly discussed, not only in the public domain but also at government level,” she writes. “In Syria the fixation on water as a ‘sensitive’ issue has extended far beyond strategic considerations and covers all levels of water management.”
“The government’s response to the drought – attempts to downplay it and subsequently deny the humanitarian crisis or blame it on externalities – is part of a mindset that influences all aspects of policy making and implementation in the Syrian water sector,” writes de Châtel.
As in many other countries in the water-scarce Middle East-North Africa region, water is considered a strategic resource that pertains to national security. As a result, accurate and up-to-date information on water availability and use is not readily available to the general public, she explains.
Yet the Assad regime has taken this security concern much farther than other governments in the region.