Oil leakage into rivers threatens NE Syria

This report by Dilsoz Youssef was published by North Press Agency on 13 February, 2024

Environmental and agricultural engineers and doctors warned about a potential disaster that could harm the northeastern areas of Syria in the long term following oil leakage into two main river streams, amid efforts to prevent its spread.

The Agriculture and Irrigation Board affiliated with the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) announced on January 29, the formation of emergency committees after oil leakage from pipelines in oil facilities in the town of Rmelan and the city of Derik (al-Malikiyah), far northeast Syria, into the rivers of al-Rad and Jaghjagh.

Rovend Abdo, an environmental engineer in Hasakah Governorate, northeast Syria, warned about the leakage of oil residues into water that would lead to an environmental disaster resulting from toxic heavy metals. These metals are harmful for all environmental elements, such as water, soil and air.

Abdo told North Press that the pollution of these elements will lead to an ecological imbalance.

Turkish airstrikes on oil fields in January resulted in oil derivatives leaking into the river of al-Rad before spreading to Jaghjagh, according to the AANES.

In January, Turkey launched dozens of attacks for five consecutive days on most of the northeastern areas of Syria, putting oil, gas, and electricity facilities out of service.

To prevent oil derivatives from leaking into the river of Khabur, the Agriculture and Irrigation Board set up floating barriers made of reeds along the polluted river.

Officials in the AANES told North Press that 200 km of the river were polluted.

The river of Jaghjagh in Hasakah Governorate, northeast Syria, on Jan. 29, 2024

Abdo mentioned that there are repercussions due to this disaster regarding the quality of the water, as it will be unsuitable for irrigation and the fish stock will be affected in the coming period.

“Even if the river water dries up during Summer, oil pollution will remain due to the decomposition of oil substances, which will affect environment,” Abdo added.

Abdo warned about the oil residues that contain volatile compounds which pollute the air, thereby causing respiratory diseases. The damage caused by these residues will appear in short and long terms.

Negative Impact

In addition, water pollution has crucial impacts on agriculture. Farmlands cover 123,550 acres on the banks of the Jaghjagh and al-Rad rivers, according to the Water Directorate affiliated with the AANES.

Aldar Hassan, an agricultural engineer, said that oil residues have negative impacts on agriculture and will reduce crop yields by about 50 to 60 percent.

He noted that if the soil is saturated with these residues, it will affect agriculture in the long term.

Agricultural experts stressed that crops will never grow in soil contaminated with oil derivatives for a lifetime.

Hassan pointed out that the presence of agricultural areas on the banks of the polluted rivers and the possibility of these residues leak into the wells that irrigate the crops will pose a significant risk to the agricultural sector.


Northeastern regions of Syria have been suffering from environmental problems for years, amidst repeated affirmations by the AANES about the lack of resources to curb pollution, especially in oil-producing areas where primitive extraction methods are used.

The AANES warned of the dangers of oil leakage into rivers on the environment, livestock, and crops. So, residents living near the river fear the spread of serious diseases.

“The pollution of the river may leach into the groundwater used by residents for drinking. This may lead to serious diseases such as cancer and kidney and skin diseases,” Antar Sino, a general practitioner at al-Shaab Hospital in Hasakah, said.

He told North Press that oil residues contain VOCs. “Exposure to VOCs can lead to many respiratory diseases, including pulmonary fibrosis,” he said.

Sino warned, “If the water pollution is not curbed, a disaster will occur and be out of control.”