Environmental Impacts of Syrian Extractives Industries

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Oil pollution

According to the chairman of Syrian-Chinese al-Kawkab, the contamination of soil with crude oil is one of the most prominent environmental problems encountered in Syria.[1]

In addition, an EU document warns that Syrian territorial waters and the Syrian coastline, with its oil refineries and power plants, are exposed to a serious risk of oil pollution, both from maritime traffic related sources and from land-based facilities.[2]

As a consequence of the war between Hizbollah and Israel in neighbouring Lebanon in 2006, an oil spill caused by the Israeli bombardment of the Jiyyeh power plant in Lebanon reached the Syrian coastline, endangering the environment.[3]

In 2011, in the context of the popular uprising against Assad's regime, pipelines were targeted and attacked on several occasions, including an attack in July 2011 which caused 1,500 barrels of crude oil to leak into the waters of a nearby dam. Numeir Makhlouf, chairman of the state-owned Syrian Company for Oil Transport (SCOT), commented that the oil had leaked into a main lake that supplies the Western agricultural area with irrigation water.[4]

Water Crisis

A water crisis in the Middle East has escalated over recent years. Dwindling resources, affected by agricultural and industrial initiatives and population growth, have elevated the strategic importance of water in the region.[5]

Water is an important resources in the production of oil and gas and the issues and impacts of water on the oil and gas sector have been gaining prominence in recent years.[6] Deir Ez Zour, the region which produces most of Syria's oil has been particularly impacted by the water crisis since 2005, which has crippled agricultural production.[7]

The Arab world has criticized Turkey for its part in exacerbating the water crisis in Syria and other neighbouring countries. The Turkish mountains are home to the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and the Turks have built dozens of dams limiting the flow of water to the Arab world downstream. According to Hussein Amery, a water specialist, "the Arabs, the Iraqis and the Syrians feel very much that Turkey is asserting itself as a regional hydrological superpower", claiming that the water crisis has fuelled resentment against the Turks.[8]

Environmental Initiatives

The Syrian Ministry of Environment was established in 2009. Since then the country has been working on a number of environmental protection initiatives pertaining to the oil and gas industry. An environmental program was developed aimed at prevention of pollution and the the utilization of natural resources. The Ministry of Oil was reportedly working with Hagler Bailly Consulting on environmental protection measures for the industry.[9]

References

  1. Al Kawkab Company gave successful method of treatment of environmental oil pollution of the soil during 1st Conference of Environmental SciencesSyrian Oil and Gas News, 17 January 2012.
  2. Development of the national system for preparedness and response to accidental marine pollution in Syrian Arab RepublicEU, retrieved 20 March 2012.
  3. Oil spill caused by Israeli attack hits Syrian coastline – UN agencyUN News Centre, 2 August 2006.
  4. Bomb blast hits oil pipeline in western SyriaThe Hindu, 29 July 2011.
  5. The New Water Politics of the Middle EastInstitute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, summer 1999.
  6. WaterIPIECA, retrieved 20 March 2012.
  7. Assad sacks governor following huge protestsAl Jazeera, 25 July 2011.
  8. Tide Of Arab-Turk Tension Rises Amid Water ShortageNPR, 8 January 2010.
  9. International Resource JournalMiddle East’s oil and gas, retrieved 20 March 2012.