» Syria & Environmental Issues

Syrian Strategy & National Environmental Action Plan

The Syrian Arab Republic lies on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It is bordered by Turkey from the north, Iraq from the east, Jordan from the south, and the Mediterranean Sea and Lebanon and Palestine from the west. Land surface area is 185,180 km2; one third of which is fertile lands and forests. The remainder is desert-like and mountainous terrains.

In 2001, the population of Syria was 18.866 million. By the end of 2005, this number is expected to reach nearly 21 million. Currently, over 67% of the Syrian population lives in major cities such as Damascus, Homs, Hama, Aleppo and coastal-zone cities. This is attributed to the high population growth rate and migratory trends from rural areas towards urban centers.
Economic trends in the past 10 years have had a positive effect on the structure of the Syrian economy resulting in the growth of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) between 1993 and 1998 from 659 billion to 931 billion Syrian pounds. But, due to a number of external factors, Syrian economy experienced a noticeable slowdown, resulting in the decline of the GDP growth rate from 9.7% to -2% between 1999 and 2000. However, in 2001 this rate rebounded back to +3.4%.
The responsibility for dealing with the main environmental issues in Syria lies within a number of ministries, in addition to the Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs. These ministries bear a direct responsibility for providing the legislative framework or the institutional support necessary for environmental work. And even though most national institutions with environmental mandates have been established, however, they still lack the capacity to function effectively. Work is currently underway to develop and strengthen the environmental capacities, and to introduce environmental aspects into development strategies during the planning phase. Recently, the Environmental Law was approved and issued as Law Number 50 of the year 2002.
The strategic objective for the National Environmental Action Plan is:
Incorporating environmental aspects in policies, plans and national programs, and protecting natural resources, biodiversity, cultural heritage, public health, and promoting the use of clean and renewable energies in the framework of sustainable development
This objective is achieved through a national action plan implemented by means of specific mechanisms and measures with the aim of achieving the strategic objectives.  Indicators are monitored in order to determine the progress made towards achieving these objectives.  The national action plan aims through the proposed measures to improve environmental performance continuously and gradually, such as to address the environmental priority problems by the year 2015.
Proposed actions in the National Environmental Action Plan requiring implementation in the short and medium term are categorized into one of the following four groups:
·           Policy development
·           Institutional and/or legislative development
·           Environmental investment programs
·           Training, information exchange and research
This report includes a complete list of proposed actions, in addition to measures, programs and environmental projects which have been implemented in Syria.
Sources for financing the National Environmental Action Plan include government allocated funds, which constitute the main source for financing programs and environmental projects; loans and grants awarded by Arab and international organizations, agencies, and/or funds; in addition to imposed tariffs and taxes.  The environmental law number 50 of the year 2002 has envisaged the establishment of a special fund which will contribute towards the financing of national environmental projects.