Impact of the Syrian Refugee Crisis on Land Use and Transboundary Freshwater Resources

Impact of the Syrian Refugee Crisis on Land Use and Transboundary Freshwater Resources

Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America , 2016

Author(s): Marc François Müller, Jim Yoon, Steven M. Gorelick, Nicolas Avisse, Amaury Tilmant

Countries: Syria

Topics: Basic Services, Humanitarian Assistance, Land, Livelihoods, Renewable Resources

Added: 08/02/2017

 

Since 2013, hundreds of thousands of refugees have migrated southward to Jordan to escape the Syrian civil war that began in mid-2011. Evaluating impacts of conflict and migration on land use and transboundary water resources in an active war zone remains a challenge. However, spatial and statistical analyses of satellite imagery for the recent period of Syrian refugee mass migration provide evidence of rapid changes in land use, water use, and water management in the Yarmouk–Jordan river watershed shared by Syria, Jordan, and Israel. Conflict and consequent migration caused ∼50% decreases in both irrigated agriculture in Syria and retention of winter rainfall in Syrian dams, which gave rise to unexpected additional stream flow to downstream Jordan during the refugee migration period. Comparing premigration and postmigration periods, Syrian abandonment of irrigated agriculture accounts for half of the stream flow increase, with the other half attributable to recovery from a severe drought. Despite this increase, the Yarmouk River flow into Jordan is still substantially below the volume that was expected by Jordan under the 1953, 1987, and 2001 bilateral agreements with Syria.

 

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