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Water in the Eastern Mediterranean

Enjeux de l’eau en Méditerrranée orientale
Stéphane Ghiotti
p. 5
This article is a translation of:
Enjeux de l’eau en Méditerrranée orientale [fr]

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1This volume of Méditerranée looks at “Water issues in the Eastern Mediterranean”. The themes of the Mediterranean and water are often associated and presented as archetypes and as such benefit from a diverse and abundant literature. Often, however, the proposed analyzes focus on the Maghreb countries or specific cases such as, for instance, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Nile, or the Euphrates and the Tigris. Papers looking at the Eastern Mediterranean, with a view to outlining a broader perspective, are much rarer. This is the aim of the present issue, whose originality stems from three factors.

2Firstly, a broad spectrum of countries and case studies are reported, from the shores of the Black Sea to the Maghreb. Further examples include Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan and Libya.

3Second, the studies do not focus solely on traditional themes such as irrigation or technical and modelling approaches. The authors notably distance themselves from a modern conception of the resource (Linton, 2010), which considers water to be non-territorial, homogeneous, ahistorical and detached from social relationships. Some of the issues discussed in this volume show evidence of the power relations that exist in the territorial management of water resources, consistent with a political ecology approach. P. Blanc, for Jordan, shows how a combination of local and regional political issues, and a diversification of water distribution means (canals, wells, sources), has reshaped the hierarchies between uses and social groups. He discusses the readjustments of the network of stakeholders so as to ensure economic development via irrigation agriculture, maintenance of the State and meeting urban demands for drinking water. In the case of Libya, S. Palluault outlines particularly acute social and spatial issues in the new political context following completion of work for the Grande Manmade River (GMR). M. Marié “after the technique, the rest ...” and the methods of distribution and allocation of resources between sectors (city/agriculture) and space (Tripoli/ Cyrenaica) refers to the issue of planning, organization of the State and more general development. Others look at the modes of social construction of knowledge and techniques of water management in relation to present work on Science and Technology Studies (STS). The examples described by K. Fustec for the Palestinian Authority, and M. Saade-Sbeih and R. Jaubert for Syria, show how the framework of questions, issues and adopted solutions are social constructions. The management strategies put into place are less related to “objective” scientific knowledge than the reinterpretation of power relations and struggle between protagonists looking to consolidate their leadership. One of the underlying currents present throughout this volume relates to the principles of integrated water resources management (IWRM), the dominant paradigm for the past two decades, and their implementation. These are questioned in the light of the social, territorial, economic and political dynamics at work in the different analyzed countries.

4Finally, and related to this last point, this issue provides a detailed update of the challenges facing water management in the Eastern Mediterranean by integrating the deep changes associated with the “Arab Spring”. The Libyan and Syrian examples (F. Balanche) illustrate the changes in priorities at all levels of decision-making and management in the distribution and use of water. They reflect the reorganization of relations between uses, users, official/unofficial powers and spatial organization.

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LINTON J., (2010), What is water, The history of modern abstraction, Vancouver, UBC Press.

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Bibliographical reference

Stéphane Ghiotti, « Water in the Eastern Mediterranean », Méditerranée, 119 | 2012, 5.

Electronic reference

Stéphane Ghiotti, « Water in the Eastern Mediterranean », Méditerranée [Online], 119 | 2012, Online since 08 avril 2013, connection on 25 juin 2022. URL : ; DOI :

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About the author

Stéphane Ghiotti

Researcher, CNRS, ART-Dev, UMR 5281, Montpellier 3,

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