Systematic logging in Ras al-Ain
Enab Baladi – Ras al-Ain
As winter approaches, tree cutting and logging operations have increased in the opposition-held city of Ras al-Ain, northwest of al-Hasakah governorate, amid rising prices for heating methods.
A number of people resort to cutting down trees for their homes or public trees to obtain firewood, while members of the armed factions stand behind most of the firewood operations until it has become a widespread phenomenon despite the presence of laws from local authorities prohibiting it.
The price of a barrel of diesel with a capacity of 200 liters reached $145 (about 2.1 million Syrian pounds), while the price of a ton of firewood reached 3 million Syrian pounds.
Diesel, firewood are expensive
Ahmed Sultan, an employee in the city of Ras al-Ain, told Enab Baladi that his salary does not exceed 2,000 Turkish liras, and is not enough to provide the family’s basic supplies for more than 15 days.
Sultan stated that the price of a liter of diesel (refined Syrian) is 35 Turkish liras and that the minimum quantity sufficient to heat the house per day is five liters, and its price is 175 Turkish liras, while the price of a ton of firewood is between 3 million and 3.5 million Syrian pounds, which is a large amount that he cannot provide.
Sultan believes that cutting down trees is a forced option, even if it is illegal, as the cold is too harsh for the family and children to bear.
For her part, Zainab Hussein, based in Ras al-Ain, told Enab Baladi that last year she relied on diesel fuel for heating, but the high prices of it and firewood made them an unlikely option, and she is still looking for less expensive options.
As for Malik Ayoub, a father of three children, he said that the rise in fuel prices prompted him to cut down the trees for his house for heating, pointing out that he did not have enough money to buy diesel or firewood.
Narrow area; SDF blocks fuel
Abdullah Barho, a heating materials merchant in Ras al-Ain, said that the high prices of heating materials in the region are due to several factors, most notably the nature of the geographical area and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) preventing materials from their areas from reaching the city.
Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad are located adjacent to the Turkish border and are controlled by the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) and its political umbrella, the Syrian Interim Government (SIG). They are surrounded by fighting fronts with the SDF, and the Turkish border is considered their only outlet to the outside.
The merchant explained that the SDF prevented the entry of fuel into Ras al-Ain, which was reflected in the rise in fuel prices in the city.
He added that coal, which is one of the most important sources of heating in the region, comes from Turkey, and its prices are already high.
As for wood, due to the lack of trees and the lack of forests, its price increased by 200% compared to last year, according to what the merchant said.
In 2022, a ton of firewood was sold for 900,000 pounds, while this year, it exceeded the barrier of three million Syrian pounds.
Most of them are military
A source in the Parks Directorate in Ras al-Ain told Enab Baladi that cases of tree cutting in the city’s public parks are increasing with the onset of winter.
The source added that within one week, three trees were cut down in the “large” park, three in the “North Station” park, and seven in the “South Station” park and that most of the people who cut the trees were affiliated with SNA military bodies.
He explained that the local council in Ras al-Ain issued a decision in 2021 prohibiting the cutting of trees, and the decision was re-circulated in 2022, but cases of trespassing on public parks and wooded places did not stop, stressing the need for civil and military institutions to intervene to limit the unjust cutting of trees.
Since the National Army took control of Ras al-Ain in 2019, many local and military authorities have warned against tree cutting operations in the city and its countryside under penalty of accountability, and imposed fines amounting to $10,000, but despite the warnings, logging work has continued in the region.
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