The prevention in the fight against industrial pollution: a new path followed by Syria
The fight against industrial pollution is often considered as a supplementary cost, a heavy expenditure susceptible of eating into the benefits of a factory in case it is obliged to install a waste treatment system. How is it possible, in this context, to induce the industrialists to reduce pollution? The reply to this question is inherent in a simple equation namely: prevention is a thousand times easier than post-treatment.
This, however, necessitates awareness, know-how and training of the industrialists and their work teams. It is precisely in this domain that the assistance of ESCWA is most desirable by member countries, which decide not to be overwhelmed by the scourge of industrial pollution, and aim at preserving, if not enhancing, the economic health of this sector. Indeed, through targeted technical assistance, ESCWA provides its member countries with the policy advice and technical support for integrating the environmental dimensions in their national economic development plans.
Tunisia is by far the most advanced Arab country in this field, followed by Egypt, which is also on the right track. Syria followed the lead, by establishing a center for the prevention of industrial pollution, inaugurated in September 2005. The Governor of Damascus, who represented the Minister of Local Management and Environment, attended its inauguration. The establishment of the center materialized with the technical assistance of ESCWA. The center is engaged in minimizing the impact of industrial production on the environment and on the health of the Syrian population. Two positive factors ensure the success of this project: first, the Center is integrated in an NGO, the Syrian Environment Association. Second, the head of this Center is a notable industrialist in Syria who has a considerable power of persuasion over his peers.
The struggle against industrial pollution in Syria began four years ago. The concept and approach of prevention adopted by the Center, which are in perfect harmony with the means used by ESCWA for promoting a better protection of resources, shall increase its effectiveness. On this level, the ESCWA’s Regional Advisor on Environment explains that “Previous experiences of implementing pollution prevention techniques proved that when we improve the production processes (upstream) with the aim of limiting pollution production, we shall be able, using low or no cost methods, to reduce, at the end of the process, the undesirable outputs by more than 40 per cent”. To back up his proposition, he gives a significant example: one of the famous textile factories in Egypt, which through adopting methods for increasing the efficiency of production, succeeded in decreasing its water consumption by 85 per cent, and consequently decreasing treatment of polluted water by the same proportion.
However, the most interesting and convincing argument for the industrialists remains the following: pollution prevention measures, far from representing supplementary costs, lead to the realization of savings, for more than one reason. In first place, this results in conserving the use of resources (such as in the case of the Egyptian factory mentioned above) which, in addition to the protection of the environment, helps to implement the concept of sustainable development. From this first argument follows a second: with less raw materials used at the base, the undesirable outputs (in other words, all that is not the product itself) shall be less, and the cost of the treatment shall decrease proportionately. Lastly, the experience of many countries that adopted the upstream method of improving the chain of production have proved that the final product obtained was cleaner, and thus of superior quality and more competitive in both the local and international markets.
In order to get there, the Center for Industrial Pollution Prevention in Syria, following the counsel given by ESCWA and in conformity with its general principles, has fixed for itself several objectives, mainly to impart to the industrialists the awareness about the prevention methods and the rationalization of the use of resources; to help industries to utilize these methods and keep in harmony with the international environmental standards; and lastly, to collaborate with the local decision makers in order to enact laws on the subject, as well as with the local and international organizations for a better application of the criteria for the fight against pollution. The work in this center shall be based on several principles inspired by those of the international organization, such as partnership with all the concerned parties, transparency, simplicity, efficiency, durability, and continuous improvement.
At first, the Center shall concentrate on the completion of its specialized library put at the disposal of the industrialists. Then, it shall prepare a training program in the methods of pollution prevention in various industrial sectors and a program on the measures for limiting pollution by the most polluting industries in Syria, namely the fields of textile, food and metal finishing. Towards this end, the ESCWA Regional Advisor on Environment prepared a draft project document about the largest three industrial zones in the country (in Damascus, Homs and Aleppo), for international funding. This project aims at the implementation of concrete measures for the reduction of pollution in these regions.
In helping Syria in its struggle against industrial pollution by the creation of a specialized center, ESCWA is contributing in creating an institutional framework to this long-term endeavor and brings answers to a difficult problem facing the country.