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Biodiversity in Peril: Syrian Wildlife, Victim a Senseless Civil War

By Areej Zaher*

 

Despite the diversity of wild life in Syria, that relates to the diversity of climate and soil, the civil war in Syria has had dramatic effects on the environment, threatening all living things by land and sea. This led to imbalance in the ecological system.

Wild life

These seven years of war caused the destruction of animals’ habitats and natural preserves, not to mention burning and destroying nature reserves, serious deterioration of soil, declining water levels and damaging agricultural lands.

Terrorist attacks were fierce on vital biodiversity, birds and animals in the wild were caught or killed in nature reserves and forests.

Wild fires

Wild Fires had the biggest share of destroying the forests of Latakia (about 257 fires burned 5 million trees across 10 thousand hectares) coasting the Syrian government 8 billion Syrian pounds. Unfortunately, many fires could not be precisely estimated for being out of government controlled areas.

Oil wells fires

Conflicts and fierce clashes between the Syrian army and ISIS had serious impact on oil sites, so there was a growing concern over polluting the surrounding environment by land and air, after the burning of oil wells especially in Deir Ezzor. Oil fires would cause ecological problems, resulting from toxic gasses emission.

Water pollution

We can’t talk about war impacts without mentioning water subject, if not for the sake of wild life, it will be for its demographical role.

According to scientific research and knowledgeable resources, water in some residential areas was contaminated, because of clashes between militias and the Syrian army, which might be carried out by those militias to accuse the Syrian army. Water from the Wadi Barada and Ain al-Fija springs, which serve 70 percent of the population in and around Damascus, was cut after infrastructure was damaged in fierce clashes. And a few days ago people of Al-Hasaka governorate complained about contaminated water with sewage water.

Contamination from military materials and weapons

Over seven years of intense use of all kind of weapons and munitions has resulted in many toxic substances and heavy metals dispersed in residential sites. Uncontrolled explosions of munitions storage sites could pose acute health risk and long-term contamination hazards for water and soil.

Refugees camps

Apart from the direct impact in Syria, the millions of refugees has left environmental footprints in campsites. Countries like Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey are struggling with declining water levels and waste management in and around settlements.

Conflict in Syria can provide more insight on the future of the country and the threats civilians are likely to face. So further steps are needed all over the country to provide sufficient means for the appropriate authorities and local communities to deal with waste problems, water pollution, wild and oil fields fires. And it’s imperative to identify and the environmental health risks as soon as possible.

 

*Areej Zaher is a Syrian researcher and translator.

 

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