Mon 20 Jan 2020

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Forest wealth endangered.. Firewood Daraa’s main source of fuel 

Eucalyptus tree in the western countryside of Daraa (Enab Baladi’s archive)

Eucalyptus tree in the western countryside of Daraa (Enab Baladi’s archive)

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Enab Baladi – Daraa

“To combat illegal tree logging,” this is how the Forestry Department of the Directorate of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform in Daraa justified the issuance of bailiffs against citizens “transgressing” the forest trees by cutting them in the areas of Tell Shihab, Muzayrib, road of Jasim city, Naamer and other areas, in the countryside of Daraa.

According to the official Syrian News Agency (SANA), the records issued in October came in parallel with a forestation campaign to compensate for the lack of vegetation cover in the governorate, after about eight years of excessive dependence on firewood as a method of heating, and as an alternative to fuel.

However, the residents of Daraa are still relying on firewood to date, despite the return of the state service institutions to work. This is because of the frequent lack of fuel and electricity cuts.

High demands despite high prices

Prices of firewood vary according to the type of tree and the degree of its dehydration. Residents use firewood of eucalyptus and cypress trees, which have been subjected to illegal logging that nearly eliminated the forest wealth in the governorate.

The price per ton of olive wood reaches 90,000 Syrian Pounds, while the price per ton of eucalyptus wood reaches 75,000 Syrian Pounds, which is a high price compared to previous years, as monitored by Enab Baladi.

The price of a ton of firewood ranged between 60 and 70 thousand Syrian Pounds last year. Residents mostly prefer olive tree firewood because it contains an amount of oil, making it highly flammable.

Enab Baladi met a group of residents in Daraa governorate who depend on firewood for heating and other uses, most of whom confirmed that they store firewood during the summer in the hope that it would suffice during the winter season when the degree of cold determines the amount of the daily consumption of firewood.

On the other hand, some people use firewood as a helping means of heating or cooking, in case they are unable to fill the fuel gas or obtain a gas jar, as the price of one liter of non-subsidized fuel gas reaches 400 Syrian Pounds, while the gas bottle is sold at a free price of 12,000 Syrian Pounds.

Forest wealth is endangered

The residents’ reliance on firewood during the past years has negatively affected the quantities of the forest trees. In addition, the residents’ displacement from their villages during the control of the regime over the governorate led to the neglect of the fruit fields such as olives, grapes, and pomegranate, whose trees have later been used as firewood for heating.

An agricultural engineer, who was an employee of the Free Daraa Governorate Council during the period of opposition control, told Enab Baladi that the logging included decades-old trees, and led to a dramatic decrease in green spaces throughout the governorate.

The engineer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added that between 2016 and 2017, the tree nurseries reclaimed by the Council, which was affiliated with the “Interim Government,” produced approximately one million seedlings (olives and forest trees) that were sold at a subsidized price. In addition, the local councils launched campaigns of forestation. However, their poor capabilities and overgrazing have negatively affected these projects.

The situation has not changed after the regime took control of the southern region in 2018, as logging is still continuing, and the Daraa Agriculture Directorate has worked to abort the “Tell Shihab tree nursery” which was previously reclaimed by the Council.

The Directorate of Agriculture in Daraa estimated that more than 1.2 million olive trees stopped production, out of the six million trees that were produced before 2011. Moreover, 90 percent of the forested lands were cut down, as SANA quoted from the head of the Forestry Department in Daraa, Engineer Jamil al-Abdullah, on October 17.

Al-Abdullah also announced a plan to afforest 200 hectares in different regions, and reclaim 30 hectares of land to produce 500,000 forest plants in the next season of 2020, an increase of 200,000 plants compared to last season.

Governmental actions to protect the forest wealth remain limited to the Forestry Department, while preventive steps have not been taken in integration with other service institutions concerned with improving the reality of fuel and electricity, which would necessarily reduce dependence on firewood as fuel.

 

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