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Managing the Waters of Bath Country: The Politics of Water Scarcity in Syria

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The Syrian government and international development agencies commonly present water scarcity as being one of Syria's main development challenges. This paper draws on a set of international reports, written in consultation with Syrian officials, to reveal the politics of this scarcity. I show how water scarcity is constructed and ordered through spatial representations. Rather than accepting the common explanation that scarcity is the result of population pressure, I argue that Syria's water scarcity is a consequence of the ruling Bath party's continuous promotion of water-intensive agriculture. This support for the agricultural sector, motivated in part by a desire for food self-sufficiency and growth through an expansion in irrigated agriculture, is linked to the rural roots of the Bath party and the influential Peasants Union. In revealing these key national politics, this analysis highlights how geopolitical studies of water in the Middle East must move beyond a focus on inter-state dynamics and pay critical attention to the politics operating around water distribution and use on a range of scalar levels.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA

Publication date: July 1, 2009

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