Excessive logging turns tourist forests into barren areas in As-Suwayda
Enab Baladi – As-Suwayda
The phenomenon of excessive logging is exacerbated by the intensification of the fuel crisis in Syria, as residents of areas where there are forest trees resort to relying on their firewood for heating and cooking, as in the southern governorate of As-Suwayda.
What added to the environmental crime was the tendency of many to systematic logging for trade and profit.
The area of the agricultural al-Kafr airport has turned from a tourist destination and a breathing space for the residents of As-Suwayda into a barren land.
As-Suwayda-based Samer (pseudonym), who preferred to withhold his real name, told Enab Baladi that many residents resort to logging due to the lack of heating diesel fuel and its high prices.
The price of one ton of firewood is equivalent to the employee’s salary for a whole year, forcing the people to resort to wood logging in agricultural lands, he added.
The young man considered that the logging acts carried out by the people did not significantly affect the trees, as each of them was satisfied with taking his needs without turning the matter into a trade.
With winter approaching, the local Suwayda 24 website published a video recording on Facebook of the unjust logging operations at the agricultural airport in the town of al-Kafr, south of As-Suwayda.
The clip showed the transformation of green spaces filled with forest trees into barren lands.
The al-Kafr agricultural airport is located in the town of al-Kafr, south of As-Suwayda, and extends on the southern slope of Tal al-Qalib area over large areas of As-Suwayda.
The town of al-Kafr is about 12 kilometers from As-Suwayda city, and it is located between four hills, the most famous of which is Tal al-Qalib.
The area of the al-Kafr agricultural airport was not the only one affected by the logging, as the loggers have been active in the area of the governorate during the past weeks, which resulted in significant damage to large areas of forests, agricultural reserves, olive and apple crops.
As-Suwayda-based media activist Marwan Hamza told Enab Baladi that the main reason for the further deterioration of forest cover is the reduction by the regime’s subsidized diesel fuel to 50 liters, which is not enough to heat the house for one week.
The fuel shortage pushed the residents to search for alternatives, especially firewood, but the high price of it made logging the only option for the people, according to Hamza.
The price of one wood ton reached 200,000 Syrian pounds (about 250 US dollars).
Exploitation exacerbates the problem
The logging has turned from an attempt to meet the needs of the residents to an unjust act by groups of merchants without any government action to protect agricultural lands.
Hamza stated that some merchants took advantage of the people’s need for wood logging and began cutting trees and trading their firewood for profit.
In his turn, Samer referred to the unfair logging by merchants who are protected by the security services and work for its benefit.
Logging in al-Lajat region
Trespassing operations on trees, including rare trees, affected the forests of the al-Lajat region near the Jordanian border, west of As-Suwayda.
On 8 September, clashes erupted between residents of the al-Lajat and others from As-Suwayda, in a forest near Hosh Hammad, east of al-Lajat, after a quarrel over cutting trees.
The clashes resulted in the killing of two people from As-Suwayda governorate.
The Suwayda 24 website said last June that the logging in the western countryside of As-Suwayda is under the supervision of an army sergeant, who is in charge of the area.
The sergeant relies on civilians working for him, and sometimes he uses soldiers in the logging.
On 17 October, three people from As-Suwayda governorate were released by al-Lajat residents after being held while cutting trees.
The al-Lajat Press website said the detainees were released over a tribal mediation after elders from As-Suwayda pledged not to approach the forest.
At that time, a circular was broadcast through loudspeakers in the town of Lahtha, in the western countryside of As-Suwayda, stating that “logging in the al-Lajat forest is prohibited.”
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