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Syrian Cities

CityCity PopulationUrban Area Population
Aleppo (Halab)18919002404500
Dayr az-Zawr216200216200

Traditionally, the cities have been an expression - at the highest level of sophistication and refinement - of the same Arab culture that animated the villages. As Western influence grew, however, during the late nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, the social distance between the city and village increased. Western customs, ideas, techniques, and languages were adopted first in the cities, especially by Christians, while the villages remained ignorant of them. The introduction and adoption of elements of a radically alien culture opened a gap between the city and the village that has not narrowed with time. Only in recent years have modern transportation and mass communication begun to bring the countryside once again into the same cultural orbit as the cities.

Although the town, village, and tribe are socially distinct, they depend on each other for services and products and so are related by overall functional ties. The town supplies manufactured, specialty, and luxury products; administrative and governmental services; education and higher learning; sophisticated culture; law and justice; and financing. The village supplies agricultural products; and the tribe provides protection and navigation for caravans, travelers, and traders in the desert. As more and more villagers become educated and move to the cities, and as the beduin surrender their sole mastery of the desert to motor vehicles and the police power of the modern state and begin to adopt a sedentary life, the traditional distinctions will continue to blur.

Syrias population has grown fifteen fold since 1922, half of this increase happened in the last 20 years. The urban population in Syria has grown from 30.50% in 1950 to 52.2% in 1995. Urbanization in Syria happens as a result of a shift of population from agriculture to industry and services, especially in urban centers such Damascus and Aleppo. Factors that encouraged this migration include: successive major droughts between 1978 and 1983 in the semiarid lands, soil degradation, and unemployment and poor socio-economic situation in rural areas. Urban migration alone does not account for all the urban growth however.

The high population growth rate of Syria also contributes to the issue of urbanization. This growth is in part due to the remarkable improvements Syria made in its health care that resulted in a decline in mortality rate, and an increase of life expectancy. Refugee influxes have also played a role in this growth. In short urbanization is Syria has gone totally uncontrolled.

Uncontrolled urbanization generates large concentrations of vulnerable populations in high risk urban areas. These urban areas are not disaster prone by nature; rather the socio-economic structural processes associated with urbanization are what increase disaster vulnerability (Hamza and Zetter, 1998). In other words, already vulnerable groups, such as migrants, refugees, and low-income citizens, settle in high risk areas passed over by more capable groups and businesses. The patterns of these settlements, additionally, generate more hazards and vulnerabilities such as building collapses, urban fires, diseases, and inaccessibility of emergency services.

In addition to the vulnerability on the local community level, these concentrations create vulnerability on the national level. Damascus and Aleppo accommodate most of Syrias industrial production. Should a disaster hit one of those two cities, Syrias industrial base will be threatened. Quarantelli (2003) stressed the catastrophic impact of an incident in industry concentrations on the national economy. This adds to Syrias economic vulnerabilities, because of the already vulnerable agricultural sector.

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Page last modified: 26-03-2012 18:40:57 ZULU