In response to the demands of the ‘Halt Ajloun Deforestation’ campaign, the Jordanian government announced it will now carry out an assessment of the environmental impact of the development project to help minimize the harm to Ajloun forest. At the latest parliamentary meeting, campaigners spoke to a high-ranking official who pointed out that the location of various buildings of the development site have been altered to reduce the number of trees that need to be cut to 500 and added that new trees would be planted to replace any cut down. Despite this minor victory, the group admitted via twitter that whilst this was a step in the right direction the campaign was not over yet.
The Halt Ajloun Deforestation campaign was launched around two weeks ago to protect Jordan’s Ajloun forest from a development scheme which would cover an estimated 45 dunums of prime forest land and require the removal of 2,200 trees, some of which are over 500 years old. The ‘Halt Ajloun Deforestation’ facebook page reported that the project– a military academy- was also in clear violation of the agricultural and environmental legislation of Jordan. The Ministry of Environment has since requested an environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the project although it isn’t clear whether construction will be halted until this assessment is carried out.
Ajloun Forest is located in the north of Jordan and is one of the few remaining forested areas which make up just 1% of the country’s entire land area. Ajloun forest supports species including the roe deer, herds of wild boar, the Stone Marten, which is known to be restricted to forest habitats, the golden Jackal as well as the Red Fox, Striped Hyena and wolf. Evergreen Oak, Carob, wild Pistachio and the Strawberry tree are also known to flourish in the forestland, which is home to various bird species and has been named as an important Bird Area by Birdlife International.
Deforestation is a real environmental problem which not only decimates the habitats of animals and plants in Jordan but also contributes to desertification and water shortage. As the campaigners explain on their site: “Trees help keep water in the soil, and this is very important in a country already lacking sufficient water resources.”
The petition to halt the deforestation in Ajloun forest has attracted more than 1,000 signatories so far and the campaign appears to be going from strength to strength. As 2011 is the UN’s appointed international year of forest, it’s great to see the people of Jordan make a stand for the protection of this precious resource.
:: Image via Halt Ajloun Deforestation
For more on deforestation and the Middle East see: