A River of Death: How Oil Pollution is Impacting Health and Livelihoods in Conflict-Effected North East Syria

It was a sunny day in March when crude oil began to gush through a tiny village in northeastern Syria. The tar-rich black stream slowly oozed across roads, through fields and into houses. By the time locals realized the scale of the disaster, the damage was done. For many of these people, oil pollution from the large oil storage tanker facility at nearby Gir Zero was already an all too familiar threat. Small streams of oil waste were meandering through the landscape and clouding their communities with a thick, pervasive tench. But in recent years, unusually fierce rains and a further deterioration of the oil infrastructure have inflicted unprecedented damage on the area’s waterways. PAX and its local partner, PEL-Civil Waves, have documented the impact of these spills on health and environment of the communities that depend on these water resources. Using environmental visual investigation techniques through satellite imagery, open source information, photos from local sources and interviews with residents in villages along the polluted river, we highlight how conflict-driven oil pollution has combined with weakened environmental governance to destroy lives and livelihoods in this energy-rich part of Syria. This is a story of how dependency, infrastructural neglect and economic blockade have led to debilitating ‘conflict pollution’ in communities that are unlikely to see any relief or assistance anytime soon. Even after much of the fighting has relented in this part of Syria, civilians still face toxic violence of a different sort.

Read the full report published by PAX here.

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