November 10, 2014
In every corner of Syria, whether under the rule of the regime or rebels, Syrians are facing an energy crisis as winter begins to set in.
Staying warm is even more challenging in opposition-controlled areas around Damascus, which have been encircled by regime forces since late 2012.
In the east Damascus suburbs, the situation worsened when the regime cut off the last supply road into rebel-controlled East Ghouta last week, effectively preventing anyone and anything from freely moving in and out of the area.
The price of wood is far beyond what many of Ghouta’s one million residents can pay, a young man employed in a coffee shop in Douma, who goes by the nickname Abdul Haq Humam, tells Syria Direct’s Ammar Hamou.
He and his family use their trash as fuel for fire, knowing full well that the burning plastic emits toxic fumes, and break off pieces of their furniture to stay warm.
“The cold makes you look for any source of heating, regardless of the consequences.”
Q: What did you use for heating before the blockade on Eastern Ghouta?
We used electric heaters before the blockade. Now we have no access to electricity.
Residents in East Ghouta burn garbage for cooking fuel.
Q: What materials are being used for heating now?
Wood from trees, furniture, plastic, trash and animal dung.
Q: What do you mean you use your furniture for heating? What is the process like?
I break my wooden doors, chairs and sofas into small pieces and burn them to stay warm. Many other people do this as well.
Q: How do you use your house trash for heating?
We sort through the trash and keep plastic and papers to use later for cooking and heating purposes.
Q: Do the families consider the health effects of using trash and plastic to heat their homes?
The majority of people know [using trash] has bad health effects, but they don’t have any other choice. The cold makes you look for any source of heating, regardless of the consequences.
Q: Have you seen any health problems from this type of heating?
The common side effects are lung infection and irritation, especially for children. Last winter one child died as a result of inhaling smoke.
Q: How do you get the wood?
There are centers that sell wood in Ghouta – these centers hurt the environment by cutting trees in naturally wooded areas.
Q: How is the price of wood these days?
The price of wood is $0.25 per kilogram. For my household I need about six kilograms a day for heating and cooking.
Q: Are the prices affordable? Do they match your income?
The prices do not match my income, as I earn $85 a month. The average income in Eastern Ghouta is less than $100. I can barely afford food for my family. I have to choose between buying wood or food.
Q: What is the price for diesel (for gasoline and heating)? Are they available?
In Eastern Ghouta, the price is $6.50 per kilogram – it was $0.20 before the blockade. It is rare to find diesel these days.
Q: What are your expectations for the winter?
I don’t think this winter will be better than the last one. The regime is still blockading the only crossing point to Eastern Ghouta.
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