Oil smuggling in Syria worsens Euphrates pollution

Spills of black oil are spotted on the banks of the Euphrates in Syria, near oil smuggling points between areas controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and areas controlled by the Syrian government.

The Euphrates, the longest in Western Asia and once the main source of drinking water for the provinces of Syria’s al-Jazeera region, is facing a real disaster from soaring levels of pollutants in its water. The river stretches inside Syrian territories for 610 kilometers (379 miles), flowing inside Syria from the town of Jarablus near the border with Turkey, passing through Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor and ending at al-Bukamal to flow into Iraqi territory.

The river pollution in Syria has several causes. The volatile area in northeast Syria is controlled by several armed organizations, amid deteriorating social conditions and services.

Recently, black spills have been spotted on the banks of the Euphrates, following leaks of oil derivatives near smuggling points in areas controlled by the SDF. Through these points, fuel is illegally transported to Syrian government-controlled areas on the other side of the river, using very primitive methods. In addition, SDF forces repeatedly target oil pipelines extending to the opposite bank.

The following water pollution caused the death of a large number of fish and other animals living in the area.

A medical worker in the eastern countryside of Deir ez-Zor told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity: “The leaking of large quantities of oil derivatives into the Euphrates directly threatens the lives of locals, especially those who depend water from the river as the main source of drinking and irrigation water. This has caused cases of poisoning, especially among children, the elderly and people with chronic diseases, not to mention the spread of many diseases, including hepatitis, leishmaniasis and other communicable diseases.

He said: “A large number of people were showing symptoms of poisoning as a result of the Euphrates water contamination. Symptoms included high fever, chronic diarrhea, abdominal and stomach pain, and internal infections, particularly in children. The situation has prompted doctors and health supervisors in the area to urge residents to sterilize water before drinking it by placing a cloth over taps, then boiling the water and cooling it in containers. clean and sterilized.

The source noted that in addition to Euphrates pollution, gases resulting from primitive oil refining processes (burners) pollute the air and spread respiratory and digestive diseases, as well as cancers, in addition to births. premature births, miscarriages and congenital malformations. in newborns.

Mohammed Taha, a resident of the town of Shuhail in the eastern countryside of Deir ez-Zor, told Al-Monitor: “Black oil slicks are now directly affecting people and wildlife in the area. Large numbers of fish and birds that breed on the banks of the Euphrates perished. The weeds and plants growing on the riverbed that most wild and domestic animals feed on have been contaminated. This coincides with a low rate of rainfall and a drop in the water level of the river – in addition to this wastewater discharged directly into the river.

He added: “In addition, the drinking water has not been sterilized since the [Kurdish-led] The institutions of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria that manage the area do not carry out proper maintenance operations for the water desalination plants.

Taha traced the oil slicks in the region back to the gross negligence shown by oil smugglers whose main concern is to get more money by selling oil derivatives to the Syrian government. “The SDF can quickly stop the smuggling operations by cutting the oil pipelines connecting the area to the part controlled by the Syrian regime and by burning the river ferries used for smuggling. But that is not happening given the involvement of a number of SDF leaders in smuggling operations,” he said.

He called on residents of villages and towns in the eastern countryside of Deir ez-Zor to urgently intervene to stop oil smuggling and launch a local campaign with the help of international organizations to clean and sterilize the waters of Euphrates, clean up black oil slicks and rehabilitate all water purification and desalination plants in the region.

The Syrian government controls the center of the city of Deir ez-Zor and parts of its countryside to the east, west and south, while the SDF controls the countryside to the east, or what we calls the area of ​​al-Jazeera. From time to time, the SDF Raids smuggling crossings that connect its areas of control to areas of the Syrian government. These raids often result in clashes with smugglers, causing spills of large quantities of fuel from damaged fuel tanks.

Mohammed al-Hammadi, journalist for Al-Sharq News site covering news from the eastern region of Syria, told Al-Monitor: “Oil smuggling operations on the left bank of the Euphrates are taking place under the watchful eye of the SDF, who charge royalties to smugglers to facilitate their movement across multiple river crossings led by both SDF leaders and Syrian regime officers.”

He noted that smuggling operations take place through a number of illegal crossing points. These include Jadeed Akidat coming under SDF control and facing Muhassan town under government control; the Crossing by Jadeed Bakara facing the village of al-Toub; the crossroads of Sobha facing the city of al-Boulel; al-Busayrah crossroads facing the city of Saalo; the crossroads of Shuhail facing the city of Boqrus; the crossroads of al-Hawaij facing the town of al-Mayadin; the Thebian crossroads facing the towns of Mahkan and al-Mayadin; passage of al-Tayana facing the city of al-Quriya; Crossing Derinj facing the city of al-Asharah; and the passage of al-Jurthi facing the city of Subaikhan, according to Hammadi.

Fadel Abdul Ghani, head of Syrian Human Rights Networkcondemned the alleged complicity of the FDS with the smugglers, without caring about the lives of the civilians affected by the oil spills and the pollution of the Euphrates.

Speaking to Al-Monitor, he said: “The SDF does not use oil revenues to provide services to the region. The [US-led] The international coalition is solely to blame because of its support for the SDF. The coalition should hold the SDF accountable for the violations they commit in the region.

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