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Accueil du site → Doctorat → Pays-Bas → 2008 → To cooperate or not to cooperate... ? : collective action for rehabilitation of traditional water tunnel systems (qanats) in Syria

University of Amsterdam (2008)

To cooperate or not to cooperate... ? : collective action for rehabilitation of traditional water tunnel systems (qanats) in Syria

Wessels J.I.

Titre : To cooperate or not to cooperate... ? : collective action for rehabilitation of traditional water tunnel systems (qanats) in Syria

Auteur : Wessels J.I.

Université de soutenance : University of Amsterdam

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 2008

Présentation _ The main objective of this study is to better understand the process of collective maintenance of ancient water tunnels called qanats in Syria. It aims to evaluate the social, cultural, political and environmental factors that have driven abandonment and decay of qanats in Syria. Considered are processes of collective action to maintain qanats at two case study sites in Syria ; Shallalah Saghirah and Qarah. Qanats are subterranean tunnels that tap the groundwater and lead the water artificially to human settlement and agricultural lands using gravity flow conditions. The technique is similar to mining and originates from Old Persia. In its nature a qanat is a sustainable technique of extracting groundwater. It only relies on gravity as a power to lead the water to the desired location and it cannot exhaust an underground aquifer. Therefore qanats are interesting from a point of sustainable development. But qanats require a certain social organisation and collective action to be maintained.
Qanats in Syria are rapidly drying up and being abandoned. A problem analysis identified various causes such as climate, introduction of newer technological tools to extract groundwater, which leads to overexploitation of the aquifer and a non-emergence of collective action at community level to maintain qanats. Changing socio-political factors and landreform causes the lack of collective action. Further endogenous and exogenous causes such as internal community politics and other socioeconomic and cultural factors are identified. Contextualisation of the collective action is necessary to better understand the local level processes of collective maintenance of qanats.
A national survey identified a total of 44 sites in Syria containing 101 flowing qanats. Syria is divided in three regions of flowing qanats ; North West, South West and Middle Syria. The other regions have qanats but there were no reports of active use at the time of investigation. Flowing qanats can be used as indicator for the presence of collective action at community level. A strong relationship between communal ownership and collective action is analysed. However, it is also found that private and community ownership of qanats is not necessarily correlated to community leadership for collective maintenance. In many cases, the state is regarded as the main entitity to initiate and lead collective action on qanats.

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