Published: 6 September 2013 at 15:14
Water shortages are at the root of civil war, say Anglia Ruskin University experts
As global leaders debate the world’s response to the alleged atrocities of the Syrian government, Anglia Ruskin University is exploring the underlying drivers of the Syrian crisis.
Syria is the latest in a wave of political unrest crossing North Africa and the Middle East. Many cite religious differences and a failure of their ruling regime to tackle unemployment and social injustice, but are there other pressures driving the growth in conflict in the region?
The Global Sustainability Institute at Anglia Ruskin is undertaking research to advance knowledge on the underlying systemic drivers and dynamics of social unrest through its Global Resource Observatory (GRO), which has received seed funding from the Dawe Charitable Trust.
The research is developing an understanding of the conditions that increase the likelihood of conflict and civil disorder by attempting to model future trends in global resources that could trigger further tensions in other countries.
Syria, and the surrounding region, has experienced significant depletion in water availability since 2003. A combination of population pressures, poor water management and drought has impacted on the productivity of once fertile agricultural regions of Syria. According to a report by UNESCO, this led to a large movement of populations from farms into the cities.
Between 2006 and 2009 Syria increased its annual imports of wheat and meslin by about 1.5 million tonnes. That equated to a more than 10 fold increase in the cost of importing one of the most basic foods [see figure 1]. In parallel global food prices increased dramatically in 2008 [see figure 2] resulting in families that had traditionally been self-sufficient being exposed to volatile and uncertain food availability.
In response small groups of individuals protested. The government response, combined with a background of rising protests, existing social tensions and instability in the wider region, quickly escalated into the situation we are experiencing today.
Dr Aled Jones, Director of the Global Sustainability Institute, said:
Peter Dawe, of the Dawe Charitable Foundation, said: