FAO - Syrian Arab Republic - Rapid Geospatial Assessment after Earthquake in 2023

Executive summary

On February 6, 2023, an earthquake of magnitude of 7.7 Richter scale struck near the northern and western Syrian Arab Republic, causing severe damage to infrastructure and the farming community and devastatingly impacting people, infrastructure, and the environment. A rapid geospatial impact assessment was conducted in the most impacted area in the Syrian Arab Republic. Available data and information along with satellite imagery and remote sensing techniques were used to assess geospatial indicators on impacts of the earthquake on the people, infrastructure, and cropland area.

 

Administrative boundary from different sources (like Global Administrative Areas–GADM) Humanitarian Data Exchange–HDX and Global Administrative Unit Layers–GAUL) were compared and HDX (GADM, HDX and GAUL) were compared, and HDX was chosen as it provided the most updated and better detailed administrative information. For a better visual representation, sub-district admin boundaries are disaggregated into a hexagon grid of area 10 km2. Hexagons have a uniform area representation, allowing for easier analysis and providing good spatial correlation. A proxy land cover map for 2022 was prepared using satellite imagery from Sentinel 1 and the land cover legend from AIT, ICARDA, and WASWC (2004) at a spatial resolution of 10 m. A derived damage proxy map on infrastructures from the Earth observatory of Singapore and population data from Worldpop (2020) were obtained and used in the assessment. The proxy indicators on people’s exposure to earthquakes, characterization of irrigated cropland into high, medium and low classes, and impact on irrigation infrastructures were assessed. The results are visualised over sub-district boundaries and hexagonal grids.

 

The results of the assessment showed that 942 262 people, or 7% of the area's total population, were possibly impacted. The districts with the highest number of impacted people are Elbistan, Battalgazi, Yesilyurt, Pozanti and Golbasi. Around 110 km2 where built-up area was damaged was identified and mapped. The districts with more areas of built-up damage are Jebel Saman (28.6 km2), Al Ma'ra (15.7 km2), Menbij (14.5 km2), Al Bab (10.7 km2) and A'zaz (8.2 km2). Regarding exposed irrigated cropland, Afrin, Ain Al Arab, A’zaz, As-Salamiyeh and Al Ma’ra districts were most affected. The most impacted districts with irrigated infrastructures on wells are Tartous, Lattakia, As-Salamiyeh; on waterways are As-Suqaylabiyah, Jisr-Ash-Shugur, Tell Salhib; and on dams are Bahlolieh, Mzair'a and Safita.

 

Experience from this assessment allows identifying several recommendations. Field data collection would help cross-checking the results, proposing agronomic advice, and using maps and spatial results to develop response plans. In the future, assessing natural resources, irrigation infrastructure, crop, and agriculture, would benefit from improved spatial information. As for example, developing a national land cover reference system using very high-resolution satellite imagery, ground validation, and accuracy assessment would significantly improve our understanding of the status of natural resources, land, water, and vegetation in general.

 

The current assessment also highlights the relevance of a national geospatial database and monitoring platform for irrigated land.

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