NGOs active in areas controlled by the Syrian Salvation Government (SSG) in the Idlib governorate and the Syrian Interim Government (SIG) in the Aleppo governorate have recently launched projects to remove rubble left behind after the earthquake.
Most of these projects have documented the ownership of the debris and the rights of those owners to any possessions buried underneath. Owners also have the right to recycle their rubble.
However, these initiatives have not clearly addressed the HLP rights of owners of collapsed buildings and have all failed to explain that the rubble is a final form of ownership proof for these homes. They also need to clarify what will happen to the original properties and the land on which they were built.
So far, the most comprehensive rubble removal plan was announced by the Syria Civil Defence, more commonly known as the White Helmets, on March 9. The plan aimed to provide rapid relief for communities damaged by the February 06 earthquake. It targets the following locations, which were the communities that suffered the worst housing damage: Harem, Salqin, Janderes, Al-Atarib, Al-Dana, Jisr Al-Shughour, Darkoush, Akhtrein, and Souran. Civil Defence teams plan to go to these areas to allocate human resources and equipment to remove the rubble.
The process is expected to take three to four months, according to a Civil Defence source who spoke with The Syria Report. This timeline depends on the extent to which local councils can obtain agreement for the removal of rubble from owners of collapsed buildings. These local councils will check property claims and verify them with existing official documents issued by real estate authorities and lease contracts registered with local councils and mukhtars. Local council engineering and technical teams will work alongside the Civil Defence to document rubble removal using official records.
The source explained that the rubble sorting process would initially occur at the sites of the collapsed buildings and that any possessions still under the rubble would be handed over to their owners. Then the debris will be transported to special collection sites designated for each damaged area according to existing regulations. All of this will be documented by Civil Defence teams.
Afterwards, the rubble will be taken outside the cities and towns to locations not yet determined for final disposal and recycling. Local councils will coordinate during this step to determine where the materials can be reused, such as restoring roads, building public squares, etc. Engineering authorities from the SSG and SIG and the Engineers’ Syndicate will also discuss the best mechanism for recycling from an economic and environmental standpoint.
The plan also calls for demolishing buildings at risk of collapse after it has been verified that they cannot be restored, according to engineering reports issued by specialised damage assessment committees and with the approval of relevant local councils and property owners.
In SSG-controlled areas, 25 engineering committees affiliated with the authority’s Ministry of Local Administration and Services are still working to inspect damaged properties. As of March 06, these committees have inspected 2,603 homes. Of those, 616 were deemed structurally sound, 962 needed restoration work, 546 needed foundational reinforcement and evacuation, 261 needed total demolition, and another 211 required partial demolition.
The town of Jandares is located in the Afrin region of rural northwestern Aleppo governorate and is under the control of the Turkish-backed SIG. It suffered near-total damage in the February 6 earthquake. A total of 278 buildings there entirely collapsed, according to the latest statistics from the Jandares Local Council, issued on February 24. Another 1,100 buildings partially collapsed or had cracks. The earthquake killed around 800 town residents.
Some property owners have requested that the Jandares Local Council transport the rubble of their homes – at their initiative and expense – to private lands they own in other locations. There, they hope to reuse the debris to build new homes, pitch tents, or other means.
Subsequently, the local council gave owners and tenants of collapsed buildings until March 10 to submit requests to transport the rubble. After March 10, all remaining debris would be removed, whether registered or not.
Rubble removal began in the town’s Al-Bazar and Al-Zeytoun neighbourhoods on March 12 and is expected to take 100 days to be completed for the entirety of Jandares with coordination between the local council and the Civil Defence. The debris has been transported to spots near the Afrin River and some public roads so that it can be used to widen them.
A source from the Jandares Local Council told The Syria Report that rubble removal and transport to those locations started haphazardly before the council granted its current approval.
Removing the rubble takes place with a security officer from one of the Jandares opposition factions present, in addition to the civil police. This is meant to help verify ownership of the rubble and document its removal. While it is being removed, policemen and security officers record the possessions found in the debris and transport them to a police station to hand over to the owners.
Meanwhile, the NGO Sard has also announced a project to remove rubble from Jandares and Sarmada as part of an early recovery programme. Sard, founded in 2013, is headquartered in the Turkish city of Mersin and registered in Turkey. It carries out UN- and donor-funded early recovery and livelihood projects.
According to the organisation, Sard’s project aims to clear roads inside Jandares and Sarmada to ease safe access, restore everyday life, and provide short-term job opportunities. It also includes forming a local community empowerment committee for coordination between quake-affected residents and damage assessment committees concerning rubble removal.