Syria, the source of sandstorms, and demographic storms
In early September, a sandstorm knocked out the Middle East. The storm lasted ten days, killing several children and elderly people, injuring and suffocating hundreds, and bringing traffic in a number of areas in the east of Syria, Jordan and Lebanon to a halt.
This type of storm is not new to the region; it usually only comes to Syria from the Jordanian and Iraqi deserts, and from Saudi Arabia in the hot summer months. However, climate experts have stressed that the storm originated in Syria this year, spreading outward to the neighboring countries.
Dr. Abdul Aziz Diop, former dean of the Department of Agriculture at Aleppo University, tells Suwar, "Noticeable this year is not only the severity of the storm, but the timing – in autumn - which is a strange phenomenon." He continues, "The dust particle ratio amounted to more than two thousand micrograms per cubic meter, which is a very high figure compared with normal rates estimated at a hundred micrograms per cubic meter of air in its natural state."
Destruction of Greenery
The war going on in Syria for nearly three years has caused a decrease in cultivated land in southern, northern, and eastern Syria, actually descending to levels never before witnessed in the history of modern Syria.
Abu Ayman, a farmer in Hasaka, tells Suwar, "I plant 500 hectares of wheat annually, but today I can plant only about a hundred. This is the result of the lack of water, the high cost of pesticides and seeds, and high fuel prices." In addition, ongoing battles between ISIS and the regime in the desert of Homs, as well as primitive oil production in the provinces of Deir al-Zor and Hasaka, has caused the disappearance of the green spaces and plants that formed a stabilizing cover for the soil in the Syrian desert and other desert areas.
Dr. Diop tells the magazine, "The heavy artillery and aerial warfare have caused the destruction of agricultural soil and land. The burning and destruction of forests in the Latakia Mountains, which includes the most important forests in Syria, has increased barren land area, and the effects of climate change are also clear.” He adds, “The environment is a joint and interdependent unit, its destruction in this zone would be reflected on other areas, and this is what happened when the sandstorm moved to different parts of the Middle East."
Inverse Relationship between Demographics and the Environment
The continuation of the war in Syria has caused the migration of thousands of young people as a result of the battle for control between ISIS and the regime in the eastern regions of the country, and has resulted in the migration of large numbers of people from Daraa, known for its agriculture. This has reduced the amount of cultivated land. The war has also caused thousands of hectares to be abandoned without cultivation, creating a state of the demographic imbalance in population ratios.
Professor Abdul Karim Saqer, from the countryside of Raqqa, tells Suwar, "Migration of young people from the province has caused in an imbalance in the male and female ratios, creating social problems, including marriage difficulties and other problems. Many villages have no youth, only elderly people, women and children."
In addition to Syria’s environmental conditions, over the past two years the conflict has led to drought, the inability to provide water to irrigate agricultural land, and rising fuel prices, which prompted the emigration of many farmers, proving that the environment affects and is affected by demographic changes and imbalances.