Energy-Strapped Syrians Cut Down Precious Forests for Firewood

syria logging trees for firewoodLoggers get $5 a tree in Syria now that the heat of conflict is on, and the cold winter has set it in.

In Darkush, Syria, civilians must turn to their environment for the basic need of warmth. Day after day, freezing temperatures prevail, and tree after tree is cut down. The national park to the northwest of Idlib, a herding area, is slowly becoming a flatland.  Without the trees, which are beautiful and rare, the volume of tourists at the site is likely to decrease tremendously.  An area once known for its magnificent forests is sadly becoming known for its arboreal devastation.

The Syrian people are cutting down trees with increasing fervidity, but are doing so regretfully.   “My heart burns to see all the trees cut down. But there’s no choice. People need to stay warm,” said Hamad Al-Tawheed, one of many pick-up drivers for the firewood-to-be in Darkush.

A special unit of forest rangers was stationed in the park, but with the onset of the war, it was disbanded.

Syrian civilians found themselves suffering from a fuel crisis that meant power cuts across the whole country.  The trees, unprotected, in turn suffered at the hands (…or chainsaws) of those civilians and their hired help.

Chainsaw operators are reported to receive $5 for each tree knocked down, and truck drivers approximately $150 for each ton of lumber transported.

There is a dire need for this wood to make fuel not only in the homes of Syrians living in Darkush, but also in the businesses, like bakeries, in some of the country’s main cities.  Imported fuel from Turkey is generally off the table, as it is substandard and expensive.

Putting bread on the table is easier said than done.

In Syria, any woodland is rare; according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, it constitutes a mere 1.4 percent of the country’s terrain.  Now, as push comes to shove for the Syrians, even that statistic is diminishing.

The cliffs will remain, and so will the nearby Orontes river, but the trees, among them conifers and oaks, are scarily becoming a distant memory.

::The Saudi Gazette

Photo of man cutting tree from Shutterstock

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