A brief introductory overview of the environmental dimensions of the conflict in Syria, with facts, figures and further reading.
The conflict in Syria has included widespread attacks on oil facilities by numerous parties. Damage to urban areas has created vast quantities of debris and destroyed essential infrastructure, and fighting has regularly taken place in industrial areas. There has been a huge growth in artisanal oil refining in response to the destruction of oil facilities, while the massive displacement of its population has created environmental stress in neighbouring countries.
PAX report Scorched Earth and Charred Lives shows a sharp increase in the number of makeshift refineries in Syria’s oil rich Deir ez-Zor governorate, in the past four years, with the most recent analysis based on satellite images from June 2016. There are likely tens of thousands of makeshift refineries in the region, in which adults and an alarming number of children work.
Amidst the urgency of the humanitarian response to support those feeling Syria, the environmental footprint of these population surges has been less visible but, as Jordan is discovering, failing to address the impact of migration during response and recovery could have serious health, environmental and political consequences.
The devastation wrought upon Syria has cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians, wounding many more and displacing millions across the region and beyond. They have left behind cities turned to rubble, ravaged towns and barren lands scarred by fighting. To mark the 5th anniversary we propose five priorities to address the damage it has caused to Syria’s environment.
For new and ongoing conflicts across the world, the need to document their impact on civilians and the environment upon which they depend is encouraging the development of new research tools and methodologies. With civilians increasingly able to access the Internet and mobile networks, new opportunities are being created for the collection of environmental data, by experts and civilians alike.
As the United States, Russia, and others step up attacks on oil infrastructure captured by the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), there is concern over their direct and long-term environmental and public health impacts.
The ongoing conflict in Syria is likely to have a disastrous impact on the environment and public health, according to a new study published by PAX. Four years of fighting has left cities in rubble and caused widespread damage to industrial sites, critical infrastructure and the oil industry.
The TRWP was recently asked to help identify a substance associated with partially detonated barrel bombs in Syria. While the irritant fumes and pink powdery residue appeared to be from TNT and not a chemical weapon, the health risks from exposure to this common explosive are increasingly well understood and should be taken into account when examining the civilian impact of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
Syria’s oil industry has begun to be targeted by the US. Military policies indicate that the environmental consequences of the strategy are low on the agenda but the move looks set to have direct and indirect impacts on Syria’s environment and people.
PAX/Bellingcat | Iranian oil spills on Syria’s shores: a brief OSINT overview of an environmental incident
In June, a marine oil pipeline feeding a Syrian oil refinery was sabotaged, this open source investigation considers the environmental consequences of the incident.
A study of satellite data by the REACH Initiative has found that 948,000 acres of agricultural land in Syria was affected by wildfires between May and June 2019.
The impacts of climate change are particularly complex in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The region suffers from violent conflicts and severe water scarcity, while climate models show more serious scenarios here than in other regions. This paper explains how the security of the MENA region is inscribed in a new climate reality.
Eight Year Anniversary of the Syrian Civil War: Thematic assessment of satellite identified damage This damage atlas provides an overview of infrastructure damage in 16 towns and cities across Syria, as well as the Eastern Ghouta region (Duma, Arbin, Harasta, Misraba), providing some of the context needed to understand post-conflict conditions. It also provides a…
Report assessing the reverberating effects of the use of explosive weapons in Syria, which considers the environmental legacy of UXO and of the destruction to agricultural and industrial areas during the conflict.
Open source analysis of the impact of unseasonably heavy rains in northern Syria on IDPs and damaged oil infrastructure. When the season of heavy rainfall began in war-torn Syria, the misery local residents and internally displaced persons (IDPs) have faced over the years was compounded by environmental setbacks. This open-source monitoring blog of the situation…
Years of bombing by the US-led Coalition and Russian Air Force, combined with fighting around and attacks on oil refineries, have resulted in a severely damaged oil industry in Syria.
The overall objective of this research was to provide evidenced recommendations on programmes and policy that could sustain markets inside Syria, as a means to increase food-insecure communities’ resilience to the conflict.
PAX/Bellingcat | Hazardous Legacies: An Open-Source Overview of the Destruction of Deir ez-Zor’s Oil Industry
Russian Air Force and CJTF-OIR bombing has heavily targeted oil infrastructure. At the same time, scorched-earth tactics by the Islamic State also caused pollution. These actions have left an environmental toxic footprint that is already posing health risks to local communities.
Water stress, climatic factors and poor governance all had a part to play in undermining Syrian society. Syria became water-stressed due to both external and internal factors. Reduced rainfall levels and an unfavorable position in the Euphrates-Tigris river basin contributed to Syria’s socio-economic vulnerability to drought. These are factors that are difficult to control nationally.…
The objective of the Damage Assessment (DA) of selected cities is to provide information on the effects of the current crisis on population, physical infrastructure, and quality of service delivery in those cities.
Like all wars, Syria’s conflict has taken not just a massive human toll, it has also had a significant environmental impact. But green initiatives in rebel and Kurdish areas – even failed ones – have brought a small measure of hope to local people.
To calculate the extent of the damage, the report relied on satellite imagery cross checked with traditional and social media postings, data from the ongoing Syria Damage Assessment, and information from partner organizations that have a presence on the ground.
Eklund et al | How conflict affects land use: agricultural activity in areas seized by the Islamic State
The emergence of IS reshaped the agricultural landscape of Iraq and Syria in some areas, low-intensity agriculture was generally maintained and even expanded in some places. High-intensity farming seems to have been better maintained inside the IS zones than in the rest of Iraq and Syria.
Agriculture and the livelihoods that depend on it have suffered massive loss. The report finds that food production is at a record low and around half the population remaining in Syria are unable to meet their daily food needs.
Science Alert | Syria’s War Has Affected Water in The Region So Much, You Can See The Damage From Space
The Syrian crisis has resulted in a reduction in agricultural land in southern Syria, a decline in Syrian demand for irrigation water and a dramatic change in the way the Syrians manage their reservoirs.
Heinrich Böll Foundation | Bitter Tales from the Crescent Conflict, Pollution, and Climate Challenges for War-Torn Syria
With the conflict still raging, and creating more environmental damage, what will this legacy of degradation and pollution entail for Syria’s future, and opportunities for building peace, and what role can the international community and civil society play in rebuilding a sustainable future for Syria?
Lack of access to safe water in the war-torn country is driving migration and disease and pollution, say hydrologists and humanitarian groups.
PAX | Scorched earth and charred lives – human health and environmental risks of civilian-operated makeshift oil refineries in Syria
Using satellite analysis, PAX identified a massive increase in artisanal oil refining, a practice that threatens the health of workers – many of them children – and the environment of local communities.
PAX | Amidst the debris – a desktop study on the environmental and public health impact of Syria’s conflict:
This desktop analysis identifies four types of hazards – feasible scenarios in which the environmental impact of the conflict may have a direct and or long-term impact on the public health of the Syrian people.