Syrian Experts Call for Bringing Cotton Cultivation to a Halt
Syrian Experts called, in a study recently presented to the Syrian Ministry of Agriculture, for bringing the cultivation of cotton in Syria to a halt. The study carried out over a few years said that the Syrian experience in cotton cultivation and processing has revealed the extent of damage they caused to the Syrian national economy as a result of the serious mistakes made in the cultivation methods and excessive irrigation. The study claimed that these mistakes have also resulted in the depletion of the underground water, which has negatively affected the flow of Khabour River.
The paper pointed out that cotton cultivation has made large areas of land more saline. The damage caused by such activities has now accumulated to such an extent that costs over the past 20 years have exceeded revenues. Meanwhile, the textile industry has blundered and deteriorated causing more losses despite the fact that the government has invested 30 billion Syrian liras in the industry.
The study added that every processed kilogram of cotton needs between 11 to 13 cubic liters of water depending on the average temperature of the region in which it grows and that the total volume of water consumed in cotton cultivation reached 93.59 billions cubic meters in 1997, a figure higher than for that of 1998. Meanwhile, 4.87 billions of underground water was depleted without regeneration by 1996. According to the study, this has resulted in the decrease of the underground water level, rises in its salt content, and a decrease in the flow of springs. Most dangerous of all, the study says, is the drying up of the sources of the Khabour river, a an environmental catastrophe, as far as the experts are concerned.
The report added that this type of cultivation contributes also to the increase in salt content of large arable lands in the river Euphrates region. They say that more than 200,000 hectares of irrigated land have become more saline, and more than 52,000 hectares of land are now totally worthless for agricultural purposes. The study also said that about 600,000 hectares of Syrian irrigated lands could be affected by salt, despite the large funds allocated by the government for agriculture and agricultural reform. The overall outcome of all of this is the waste of the large amounts of money with no hope for financial gains, the report explains.
The report added that of the proceeds per hectare decrease according to the the increase in the depth of the ground water wells, due to high energy costs.
Based on the above, the study proposed the following:
- Liberalisation of cotton trade.
- Passing of laws that regulate water consumption in cotton cultivation and setting a plan for replenishing the consumed water.
- Prevention of water pumping from depths exceeding 50 meters.
Meanwhile, reports say that Syria is expected to harvest 1.1 million tons of cotton during the 2000-2001 fiscal year, compared to 900,000 tons during the 1999-2000 period.
According to Countrywatch.com, cotton-growing areas in the country are expected to expand to 256,000 hectares this year, with the per-hectare yields up to four tons.