Polluted Sea Makes Syria's Water Crisis Even More Deadly

Offshore in Baniyas has become the center of water pollution in Syria. Oil spills and sewage discharges have polluted the waters there. The impact is not only on marine life but also on the entire population of Syria.

Syria's water crisis
Illustration. Syria's water crisis is worse after the waters on the East Coast of Syria are polluted. (UN/Souleiman)

ACTNews, SYRIA – The conflict that has been going on for more than ten years is causing damage in Syria. Most recently, the conflict has caused an underwater oil refinery pipeline off the coast near the Syrian port of Baniyas to leak. Released thousands of oil into the Mediterranean sea.

The study by PAX, a Dutch peace-building organization, analyzed public and commercial satellite imagery to assess the damage caused to the waters off the port of Baniyas, where an oil spill in August leaked thousands of tonnes of oil into the Mediterranean Sea. The report listed "direct attacks on and degradation of energy infrastructure, lack of maintenance, and failing environmental governance" as the sources of pollution stemming from the country's coast.

"Syria's coastal areas are an important source of livelihoods for fisheries and tourism while also hosting many unique yet fragile marine ecosystems," the report said.

The remote sensing carried out by PAX picked up an increase in spills between 2019 and 2021, culminating with a large spill in August this year that reached waters off Cyprus and Turkey.

In addition to Syria's coastline, the PAX report found that pollution in the country is also affecting the rest of a nation currently experiencing severe drought, with oil spills impacting water sources and agricultural lands in the east.

Damage to agricultural land affects food production, which will decline. It causes food insecurity which will also increase in Syria because food sources will decrease.

According to the United Nations, Syria is currently facing the worst drought in 70 years, and aid groups warned in August that two dams in northern Syria - which provide three million people with electricity - are at risk of imminent closure resulting in the water crisis. Meanwhile, the areas of Hasakah, Aleppo, Raqqa, and Deir Ezzor have all seen an increase in the spread of water-borne diseases.[]