In this issue:

The Cyprus INECO and Nostrum-DSS Joint Event: IWRM through coordination, dissemination and exploitation of research outcomes

Egypt: Meeting local residents in Basandeila

Syria: Discussing with authorities on the pollution of the Barada River

Lebanon: Unveiling conflicts & perceptions on water stress in the Damour River Basin

Cyprus: Citizen proposals for the protection of the Pegeia Aquifer

The 2nd semester Deliverables of INECO

Future project events

The INECO Consortium

The INECO Syria Stakeholder Workshop
Discussing with authorities on the pollution of the Barada River

Background - The pollution of the Barada River

The Barada River Basin is located in the southwest part of Syria. The river ecosystem is subject to increased pressures, resulting from the the rapid and uncontrolled urbanization and industrial development, as this is the area where the capital, Damascus, is located. 

Historically, the Barada River was a vital environmental and socio-economic resource, sustaining the oasis of Ghouta, which contributed to the local economy and constituted a rich ecosystem, also considered a cultural heritage. However, in recent years, the Barada River ecosystems have collapsed, due to the high loads of industrial and domestic waste and wastewater discharge, which exceed the river’s self purification capacity, and the reduction of river flow, resulting from rainfall decrease and use of the Feige Spring for drinking water supply.

At present, the efforts undertaken in order to address the problem are incomplete, as the applicable environmental law is not strict enough, and due to legislative limitations and lack of environmental awareness. Most industries discharge contaminants to the sewerage system or simply to land and rivers without treatment, free of charge and without penalties being enforced. In addition, the spatial dispersion of micro- and small-scale industries hinders the effective control over discharges. The current agricultural practices, which include excessive application of fertilizers and pesticides, overexploitation of water resources and application of inefficient irrigation methods have also contributed to the exacerbation of water pollution in the area.

Disposed solid waste, industrial wastewater and reduced river flow in the Barada River

The Barada Spring Lake in February 2008

The INECO Syria Workshop

The INECO Workshop titled "Building a common vision for mitigating water pollution in the Barada River Basin" was held in Damascus, on September 10th 2007. The event gathered 54 participants, including representatives of public authorities and ministries dealing  with various issues related to water pollution abatement, and NGOs and water users' associations.

The 1st session (Introduction) included:

  • The welcoming address of Dr. Jamil Falloh, Water Resources Manager in the Greater Damascus area, and representative of the Ministry of Irrigation. Dr Falloh elaborated on water pollution issues in the Barada River Basin, explaining that wastewater discharged without prior treatment imposes great health and environmental concerns. He pointed out that the Government is undertaking new projects, and has embarked on a large investment programme, for the construction of new wastewater treatment plants.

  • Prof. Dionysis Assimacopoulos (INECO Project Coordinator) summarized the concepts and premises of INECO by presenting the broader context and challenges for water management in the MENA Region, and the specific purposes and methodology of INECO. He explained the purposes of the workshop, and the opportunities that it can offer to both the project but most importantly to the local stakeholders who are participating in this effort.

The 2nd session aimed at stimulating the discussion among stakeholders, by setting the frame for the discussion:

  • Eng. Malek Haddad, from Studies and Integration Consulting, the INECO Regional Partner in Syria, pointed out that respect towards the environment is a responsibility shared among individuals, communities, organizations and the Government. He specifically stressed that the role of policy makers is to establish and implement a practical and applicable framework for integrating the management of water resources in the national context, taking into account the experience and best practices already applied in other countries. He then presented an overview of the current institutional and economic setting for water quality management in Syria, and made an introduction to the water management issue that was the theme of the workshop, i.e. “Water Pollution from household, industrial and agricultural drainage water in the Barada River Basin". Eng. Haddad showed many photos from the Barada River, from its source to the Otayba Lake. The photos demonstrated many pollution sources along the riverbed. Furthermore, he pointed out the increased urbanization of the greater Damascus Area during the last 40 years, demonstrating satellite photos.

  • Ms. Eleni Manoli (Chemical Engineer, National Technical University of Athens), presented the concepts for Integrated Water Resources Management, and instruments and approaches for preventing and controlling water pollution. During this presentation, workshop participants were asked to write down their perceptions on the causes and effects of pollution and water quality deterioration of the Barada River. 

The 3rd Session was devoted to discussion among all participants, who expressed their perceptions on the problem. The main issues raised were that:

  • The application of the law for both private and public sector establishments is a very crucial issue. The Environmental Law is still not fully applied because there are many implementation difficulties for public establishments due to the lack of political will.

  • It is very important to harmonize and integrate the different sectoral policies.

  • The implementation of any economic instrument should be based on a participatory approach, involving all the responsible bodies in order to identify and agree upon solutions.

  • It is necessary to rethink the overall concept of water policies, especially with regard to food security, water security and costs for water exploitation.

  • Solutions to problems are already known. What is needed are decisions, and their application should originate from decision-makers at the high political levels, and not from experts. All ministries should be involved, in order to create a very specific, targeted and clear water policy, which should then be presented to the high-level decision makers for implementation.

The media coverage of the event, which included interviews for the National Television and local radio and announcements at the local newspapers, contributed to enhancing awareness among the general public on the importance of the analysed issue and the effort undertaken by INECO.

More information on the Syria workshop

Workshop survey

The local stakeholder survey, undertaken within the framework of the INECO Syria Workshop, aimed at arriving to a set of possible options for addressing the pollution of the Barada river.

In total, 46 workshop participants responded to the survey, which comprised 15 questions. The most significant results obtained from the survey were the following:

  • Although water shortage is considered the primary water management problem (~70% of replies), water pollution is also considered significant (~48% of replies).

  • The majority of participants (87%) believed that the pollution of the Barada River is a very important issue, that needs to be addressed immediately. Increased health risks are considered the most significant effect, linked also to the pollution of groundwater bodies.

  • The following are considered the main causes of river pollution: a) inadequate domestic wastewater collection and treatment (41%), and b) discharge of industrial effluents without prior treatment (33%).

  • Industry was considered the sector where policies should focus (48%), followed by municipal wastewater collection and treatment (26%). Agriculture was thought of as far less important (6%).

Four main instruments were discussed for mitigating industrial pollution and were ranked by workshop participants using a scale ranging from 1 (least effective) to 5 (most effective). Ranking results are presented in the Figure below.

Outcomes of the Syria Stakeholder Survey - Ranking of options for reducing
industrial pollution
(Click here for an enlarged version)

More results from the Syria workshop survey