Geography and population
Syria, with a total area of 185 180
km², is bordered in the north by Turkey, in the east and southeast by Iraq,
in the south by Jordan, in the south-west by Israel and in the west by Lebanon
and the Mediterranean sea. Administratively, the country is divided into 14
governorates, one of which being the capital Damascus.
The country can be divided into 4 physiographic
- the coastal region between the mountains
and the sea;
- the mountains and the highlands
extending from north to south parallel to the Mediterranean coast;
- the plains, or interior, located
east of the highlands and including the plains of Damascus, Homs, Hama,
Aleppo, Al-Hassakeh and Dara'a;
- the Badiah and the desert plains
in the south-eastern part of the country, bordering Jordan and Iraq.
In 1993, the cultivable land was estimated
at 5.94 million ha, or 32 % of the total area of the country. The cultivated
land was estimated at 4.94 million ha, which is 83% of the cultivable area.
Of this area, 4.27 million ha consisted of annual crops and 0.67 million ha
consisted of permanent crops. About 62 % of the cultivated area is located
in the three northern governorates Aleppo, AlReqqa and Al-Hassakeh, representing
only 33% of the total area of the country.
The total population is 14.6 million
(1995), of which 48% is rural. Actual population growth is 3.3%. In 1993,
agriculture employed around 22.5% of the total labour force, accounted for
nearly 28% of GDP and 60% of non-oil exports.
Climate and water resources
Syria's climate is Mediterranean with
continental influence: cool rainy winters and warm dry summers, with relatively
short spring and autumn seasons. Large parts of Syria are exposed to high
variability in daily temperature. The maximum difference in daily temperature
can be as high as 32°C in the interior and about 13°C in the coastal region.
Total annual precipitation ranges from 100 to 150 mm in the north-west, 150
to 200 mm from the south towards the central and east-central areas, 300 to
600 mm in the plains and along the foothills in the west, and 800 to 1 000
mm along the coast, increasing to 1 400 mm in the mountains. The Average annual
rainfall in the country is 252 mm giving 46.6 km³.
There are 16 main rivers and tributaries
in the country, of which 6 main international rivers:
- the Euphrates (Al Furat), which
is Syria's the largest river. It comes from Turkey and flows to Iraq. Its
total length is 2 330 km, of which 680 km are in Syria;
- the Afrin in the north-western part
of the country, which comes from Turkey, crosses Syria and flows back to
- the Orontes (El-Ass)) in the western
part of the country, which comes from Lebanon and flows into Turkey;
- the Yarmouk in the south-western
part of the country with sources in Syria and Jordan and which forms the
border between these two countries before flowing into the Jordan river;
- the El-Kebir with sources in Syria
and Lebanon and which forms the border between them before flowing to the
- the Tigris, which forms the border
between Syria and Turkey in the extreme north-eastern part.
The natural average surface runoff to
Syria from international rivers is estimated at 28.73 km³/year. If we include
15.75 km³ of water entering with the Euphrates, as proposed by Turkey, and
0.43 km³ of water entering with the Orontes, as agreed with Lebanon, this
total becomes 18.11 km³/year. The Tigris, which is the second most important
river in the counay, borders the country to the east and has a mean annual
flow of 18 km³. Total natural average outflow from Syria is 31.975 km³/year,
of which an agreement exists for 9.2 km, resulting in a total of actual external
surface water resources for Syria of 17.91 km³/year (27.11 km³/year - 9.2
Dams and lakes
There are 141 dams in Syria with a total
storage capacity of 15.8 km³. The largest dam is located at Al-Tabka on the
Euphrates. It forms the Al-Assad lake with a storage capacity of 11.2 km³.
Medium-sized dams include the Al-Rastan (225 million m³), the Mouhardeh (50
million m³) and the Taldo (15.5 million m³). There are some 20 dams classified
as small, the largest of which is the Dara'a, with a storage capacity of 15
million m³. The majority of these dams are located near Homs and Hama.
Apart from the Al-Assad lake, there
are five lakes in Syria, the largest being lake Jabboul near Aleppo with a
surface area of about 239 km². Lake Qattineh near Homs is the main perennial
lake in Syria.
The map below shows the ecological zones, as shown on the
FAO global map of ecological zones produced as part of the FRA 2000. Please refer
to FRA Working Paper 20 for
further information on the Global Ecological Zone map.