New desk study on Syria identifies pollution risks to civilians

New desk study on Syria identifies pollution risks to civilians

The ongoing conflict in Syria is likely to have a disastrous impact on the environment and public health, according to a new study published by PAX. Four years of fighting has left cities in rubble and caused widespread damage to industrial sites, critical infrastructure and the oil industry. Pollution from these forms of damage is likely to result in acute and chronic risks to civilians and will have a long-term impact on the environment that they depend on. “With the additional attacks by Russia in or near Aleppo, which has […]

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Collateral damage estimates and the acceptability of attacks on industrial sites

Collateral damage estimates and the acceptability of attacks on industrial sites

The deliberate or inadvertent damage or destruction of industrial facilities during conflict has the potential to cause severe environmental damage and create acute and long-term risks to civilians. Can such attacks ever be justified, particularly when the consequences of attacks may be difficult to anticipate with any degree of certainty? Global population growth, and with it increasing levels of industrialisation, is increasing the likelihood that in any given conflict, fighting may occur in areas containing industrial infrastructure. Consequently, the likelihood of damage to such sites is increasing. Industrial sites whose […]

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The civilian health risks from TNT in Syria’s barrel bombs

The civilian health risks from TNT in Syria’s barrel bombs

The TRWP was recently asked to help identify a substance associated with partially detonated barrel bombs in Syria. Syria’s White Helmets, the volunteers who daily risk their lives in the aftermath of attacks, were understandably worried about the potential use of chemical agents by the Assad regime. While the irritant fumes and pink powdery residue appeared to be from TNT and not a chemical weapon, the health risks from exposure to this common explosive are increasingly well understood and should be taken into account when examining the civilian impact of the use […]

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The environmental consequences of targeting Syria’s oil refineries

The environmental consequences of targeting Syria’s oil refineries

On the 25th September, the US-led coalition conducting airstrikes in Syria began targeting oil refineries under the control of militants from Islamic State (IS). The TRWP has previously questioned the wisdom of targeting oil infrastructure, incidents that have the potential to generate significant environmental contamination. Beyond localised pollution, the targeting of Syria’s refineries may result in further indirect harm to communities and the environment in oil producing areas through encouraging polluting micro-refineries. The initial round of airstrikes saw 12 small refineries targeted. Each was a modular refinery; these are built […]

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Attacks on oil infrastructure and the limits of environmental protection during conflict

Attacks on oil infrastructure and the limits of environmental protection during conflict

Recent fighting in Gaza and Libya has seen the targeting of a fuel burning power station and oil depot, resulting in large fires that have released toxic plumes into the atmosphere. These scenarios are unfortunately not new, with power stations and oil infrastructure commonly targeted during conflicts. What can peacetime responses to similar events teach us about the current limits of environmental protection during conflict? Andy Garrity investigates. On the 29th of July 2014, Israeli Defence Force (IDF) tanks shelled the Nusairat power station in Gaza. The plant provided approximately a third […]

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Conflict rubble: a ubiquitous and under-studied toxic remnant of war

Conflict rubble: a ubiquitous and under-studied toxic remnant of war

Andy Garrity examines the potential health impacts associated with exposure to pulverised building materials from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. The health and environmental risks and management of conflict rubble have been raised in several UNEP post-conflict assessments but little data on its post-conflict health impact is available. The use of explosive force in urban areas poses a number of immediate and obvious risks to civilians. Increasing scrutiny is now being focused on the potential health risks from the toxic constituents of munitions but less well understood […]

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The toxic footprint of Syria’s War

The toxic footprint of Syria’s War

Pieter Both and Wim Zwijnenburg, from PAX, discuss the long term health and environmental impacts of Syria’s civil war. Syria’s ongoing civil war has already resulted in over hundred-and-fifty thousand casualties and has brought enormous destruction in cities and towns all over the country. Apart from the direct impact of the armed conflict on the lives and livelihoods of Syrian citizens, health and environmental impacts are emerging as problems that deserve immediate as well as long term attention. This war leaves behind a toxic footprint resulting both directly and indirectly […]

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Toxic remnants of war and chemical warfare agents: Syria

Toxic remnants of war and chemical warfare agents: Syria

The death and injury of hundreds of people in a rebel-controlled area of eastern Damascus on August 21st  2013 bears all the hallmarks of chemical warfare agent (CWA) use according to experts in that field. The resultant cruel loss of life is potentially a serious escalation of the conflict. The Toxic Remnants of War Project receives periodic queries on whether our work encompasses the use, demilitarisation or environmental remediation of CWAs. In short, and contrary to what the name may suggest, the TRW Project does not deal with these horrific […]

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