In a historic measure that demonstrates Jordan’s new environmental commitment, the Royal Society for the Protection of Nature has agreed to establish nine more protected areas
With the help of certain enlightened individuals, such as the activists who pranced through Amman wearing lettuce to encourage vegetarianism, and Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME), who have been working hard to save the Jordan river, Jordan is beginning to realize that the environment is crucial to the country’s overall survival. As a result, officials are combining conservation with tourism in order to entice visitors to explore the country’s natural beauty in addition to its history. Gemma Bowes from the Guardian takes us on a comprehensive tour through Jordan’s national parks and protected areas, making suggestions for a few good, eco-friendly places to stay along the way.
Ms. Bowes begins her tour on a low at the Azraq wetland that used to attract so many birds that they blocked the sun. Those birds have since sought shelter elsewhere, since the water basin that feeds this desert oasis has shrunk to a mere 0.4% of its original size. It is said that one in four glasses of water in Amman is provided by this freshwater resource.
Though ducks, egrets, and cormorants were present, and though the pools are still surrounded by reeds and bulrushes and tall grasses, the wetland is a shadow of its former self. That is set to change, as the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) accelerates its conservation plan.
To encourage tourism and perhaps generate revenue to fund its conservation program, the RSCN has converted a nearby 1940s British field hospital into a lodge complete with period decor and black and white photography.
New modus operandi
This modus operandi has been applied to all six of Jordan’s nature reserves, and recently the government agreed to establish nine more protected areas.
Three will be established in the Rift Valley, two near Wadi Rum (see our post on camel tours there), and one in Burqu. Sites in the limestone hills and deciduous forest on the border with Syria and the sub-tropical wetland south of the Rift Valley will also receive protection, as will Jebel Masuda, according to Ms. Bowes.
Wild Jordan, with headquarters in Amman, is the branch of the RSCN tasked with developing the country’s eco-tourism sector, as well as socio-economic projects.
In addition to establishing craft-making centers, such as ostrich egg art, olive oil soap, and Bedouin silverware, displaced Bedouins are sometimes employed by eco-lodges.
The Dana biosphere reserve – “a canyon home to 800 plant varieties, 214 bird species, and 45 mammals” – has the Dana Guesthouse on the top of the canyon and the Feynan ecolodge at the bottom. Both employ Bedouins who used to hunt in the region, writes Ms. Bowes.
“It had taken a lot of work to persuade the government of the value of conservation,” Wild Jordan’s director Chris Jordan told the Guardian.
“They were always hoping to find a raw material that would change Jordan’s fate. Feynan and Dana were almost lost to mining. But the minerals would have soon run out. Eco-tourism is more valuable.”
:: The Guardian
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