Back in January 2011, Jordanian environmentalists launched a campaign to help protect Ajloun forest from a development project which would have seen 2,200 trees cut down across 45 dunums of land. After a lot of hard work and support from ordinary Jordanians, the Jordanian government announced it would carry out an environmental assessment of the project and help minimize the harm to Ajloun forest. The location of the project (a military academy) was moved and an environmental assessment was carried out- campaigners thought that they had won the battle to protect Ajloun forest.
However, over the last couple of days the government has approved amended plans for the military academy which would entail cutting down 300 trees.
According to the Jordan Times, the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN)- which is the leading environmental watchdog organization in Jordan- reported that the amended plans for the military academy had been approved and would mean uprooting 300 centennial trees.
The RSCN also added that the current plans violate several environmental law: “If the project continues, it will be in clear violation of Article 35, paragraph B of the Agriculture Law, which forbids uprooting, damaging or violating any centennial or rare forest trees and threatened wild plants,” said the RSCN in a statement to the Jordan Times.
Campaigners behind the efforts to halt deforestation of Ajloun forest have also expressed some concerns over the environment assessment as it was carried out over a short period of time. This has raised questions over the assessment’s thoroughness and whether it was able to fully assess the impact of the build on the ecosystems and wildlife habitats of Ajloun forest.
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. Its trees include evergreen oak, carob, wild pistachio and strawberry.
Government officials have remarked that the amended plans for the military academy have been approved but do not entail uprooting any centennial trees. MP Saleh Wreikat, who heads the House Water and Agriculture Committee went on to explain that the new chosen site did not have any trees “except for a passage that includes less than a hundred non-centennial forest trees.”
The RSCN have called on the project supervisors to reconsider and to move the military academy to a different location where they would avoid cutting down a single tree.
:: Image via Halt Ajloun Deforestation
For more on Jordan and the campaign to protect Ajloun forest see: