The eventual meltdown of the nuclear program in Jordan

Welcome to the location of Jordan's nuclear reactors!

Welcome to the location of Jordan’s nuclear reactors!

Update: Based on insider information the meeting today was fairly positive with the PM listening to all concerns raised by the experts and promised to form a committee to evaluate and investigate the process of the whole management of the program. Whether this promise will materialize remains to be seen.

Today will witness a unique meeting between the Prime Minister of Jordan and a group of representatives from the wide spectrum of institutions, experts, activists and local community members who oppose the controversial nuclear program in Jordan. The driving forces that have pushed the government to the position of the need to open up to the critics are mainly due to the increasing scope and tone of opposing a program that has always been labeled with lack of transparency and contradictions of information.
The year 2014 can see a U-turn in the fate of the nuclear program and put the necessary breaks in expenditures and decisions that have been going on for more than 7 years without any proper monitoring and evaluation.
To make a long story short, there are five main reasons that I think will push the nuclear program to its eventual end as a mirage ambition that has mislead the Jordanian public and, most sadly…its leaders for a long time.
1– Arrogant Management:

Developing a sustainable, publicly-supported nuclear program requires the maximum transparency, modesty and openness in management. In Jordan the exact opposite was the case. Since its inception in 2005 the Jordanian Atomic Energy Commission (JEAC) has acted as a religious cult in its pursuit to force the state and the public to accept the nuclear option. The officials of JAEC have claimed to posses the ultimate truth in nuclear sciences and management issues and tried to bully all their critics by linking the nuclear option to the highest levels of decision making in Jordan. Whenever critical voices emerged within the JEAC asking questions and debating decision they were expelled from JEAC. Most of those scientists that have discovered the lack of transparency and continuing contradiction in JAEC will be present in today’s meeting hoping to meet a Prime Minister open to hearing the real story.
JAEC wanted also to destroy the credibility of their opponents and linking them to “external agents” who want to sabotage the “patriotic nuclear program”. The nuclear lobby has also been successful in eroding the capacity and strength of the Atomic Regulatory Commission which is the regulatory body of the nuclear sector in Jordan. The regulatory commission has been selected by the government to be abolished along with the 50 years old Natural Resources Authority in a very controversial law for public sector restructuring.
Even for those experts and public who believe in the role of nuclear option in the energy mix in Jordan, the current method of management is not transparent and is alienating people against the program.
2- How much Uranium?:

The main assumption that was used to push for the nuclear option is the proposed availability of “strategic amounts” of Uranium in Jordan. The figure that was paraded by JEAC reaches 70.0 Million tonnes which has been used by HM King Abdullah II in his autobiography book two years ago. Now, there are many questions marks about this figure. The 1st person to publicly declare that Uranium amounts and concentrations in Jordan are much less that what was proposed is Dr Nidal Zoubi who was the Commissioner of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle in JEAC. His transparency cost him his job. In the past two years both AREZA and RioTinto which are two of the biggest exploration and mining firms in the world have withdrawn from Jordan due to the less than promising findings of Uranium concentrations. JEAC did not cave in and insisted that both companies made a big mistake in their methodologies and that Uranium is present in commercially strategic amounts based on a study by one scientists who was a previous staff member in Rio Tinto and examined 1.0 square Kilometer only . If you want to believe that one scientist is more credible than two mega corporations that base their decision only on strategic outcomes by my guest but I am personally not buying it.
3- Cost and Financing:

JAEC has claimed that the cost of constructing the two reactors would $10 billion.  Based on current market prices and current reactor projects, construction costs for the two proposed reactors  1000 MW are set to reach $20 billion. This is only for construction and if we take into consideration the full cycle of nuclear program including operation, maintenance, waste management and decommissioning we can end up with a colossal amount that can never be met. In JEAC’s agreement with the Russian firm Rosatom stipulates that the firm will cover 49% of the cost while Jordan will provide 51%. It is beyond any kind of logical thinking to envisage how a debt-stricken economy can provide this amount of cash. JEAC has been trying to get access to the social security money to finance the project. The social security management until now has resisted all political pressure and is not responding positively to this dangerous gamble with people’s pension money. There is no feasible source of financing that any serious plan can rely on at this stage.
4- Unproven technology:

JEAC’s propaganda states that Jordan’s nuclear reactors will be very safe as they will belong to Generation III reactors. However, Jordan’s agreement with Rosatom identify the technology of AES92 VVER1000 reactor with the only model that has been commissioned, in India is currently still under construction and not operational. Did they mean safety during construction? Nuclear safety is no joke and it requires ultimate commitment to the safety guidelines of the International Atomic Energy Agency which, if implemented will consume huge amounts of money that will increase the cost of the project. This technology is still experimental and it does not give us a lot of relief to be the Guinea Pigs of this experiment.
5- Water resources:

This issue is the final bullet that will lay the project to eternal rest. The chaotic sequence of selecting the location of the reactors led us now to the heart of the Jordanian desert near the historic Qusay Amra area. The reactors should use, according to declared plans not more than 40 MCM of cooling water each. Even if we assume the ability to allocate this water from the treated wastewater effluent of Khirbet As Samra (largest WWTP in Jordan) there is absolutely no additional source of water to deal with emergency situations. This is an extremely high risk of building a nuclear reactor in a desert, cooled by high salt content wastewater and completely defenseless against any case of human error or natural disaster that would reach a point of meltdown danger that requires huge amounts of cooling freshwater. There is a good reason why nuclear reactors are built adjacent to oceans and huge rivers.
Building a nuclear reactor in a desert cooled by wastewater is a fairytale but it will cost a lot of money to realize how irrational it is.
These are my five reasons, and I have not even touched upon the need to collect and treat radioactive waste.
Even for the most pragmatic reasonable person with a critical mind, the nuclear reactor in Jordan can only be built in Aqaba near sea water or never. How much we will lose until we realize this simple fact?

Posted in Anti-nuclear, Energy, Financing, Future Risks, Science & Technology | 4 Comments

A Review of Environmental Trends in Jordan in 2013



The year 2013 did not start well for the main institutional entity empowered with protecting the environment in Jordan. The Ministry of Environment was facing the axe of the Prime Minister who surprisingly announced in Nov 2012 that the Ministry will be dismantled and linked to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs as a department, like it was prior to 2003. The Ministry benefited from a national campaign by NGOs and other partners, along with good media coverage and reasonable arguments to be able to convince the PM to reconsider his decision and the Ministry was back in business in February 2013.

Relieved from this pressure the Ministry returned to its hard task to mobilize internal willingness and external resources to protect the environment which led it to facing pressures from businesses, local populations and other ministries seeking the path to rapid results without environmental impacts.

Heated Nuclear debate:  

One of the major pressures the Ministry of Environment and other environmental stakeholders in Jordan are facing is the nuclear lobby and its political influence to push forward a much disputed nuclear programme. In October, the Jordanian Atomic Energy Commission announced the selection of Russian firm, Rosatom, to construct two 1,000 Megawatt (MW) reactors in Jordan. The two reactors will be built in the middle of the Jordanian desert in Amra area. Under the deal, the Russian firm is to shoulder 49 per cent of the construction and operation costs of the reactors — to be established on a build-own-operate basis — with the government carrying the remaining 51 per cent.

The announcement was met with an increasing wave of doubt, criticism and refusal by environmentalists, independent nuclear energy experts and local communities. Former atomic energy officials also called into question JAEC’s claims that the AES92 VVER1000 reactor technology offered by Rosatom boasts a proven “safety track record”, noting that although licensed, the only model that has been commissioned, in India is currently under construction and not operational. The momentum for the anti-nuclear movement in Jordan is expected to increase in 2014 and attract more stakeholders and get more politicized.

Renewables still facing barriers:

In contrast to the strong political support provided to the nuclear option by the government and state institutions the portfolio of renewable energy is still moving at a lethargic pace. The chaos in official planning for this sector was evident when the government  announced that it was reconsidering the feed-in tariff for renewable energy approved last year. This has resulted in discomfort and threatened ongoing and planned investment until somehow the government returned to logic and kept its committed figures.  

The year did not end without positive news as the first large-scale wind farm project has secured funding. The support from IFC will help the Jordan Wind Project Company build a 117-megawatt plant in the southern governorate of Tafileh. IFC, the lead arranger of the project, provided $69 million in loans and helped directly mobilise another $79 million from other lenders. The wind farm will be the country’s first privately-owned renewable energy facility. The Tafileh wind farm is expected to produce electricity at a price up to 25 per cent less than that of thermal power while avoiding the emission of 224,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually. There are two other solar and wind energy projects with generating capacity of 75MWs each at a total cost of JD300 million to be financed from the Gulf Cooperation Council fund to Jordan.

In other news in energy sector, the once-promising era of Egyptian natural gas supply to Jordan is about to end. Egyptian gas supplies have dropped to “negligible” quantities since September, after hovering around 50 million cubic feet (mcf) per day for most of the year — well below the 240mcf stipulated in a joint agreement between Amman and Cairo. The loss of Egyptian gas supplies, which used to account for over 80 per cent of Jordan’s electricity generation needs, has driven generation costs to over 187 fils per kilowatt hour (kw/h) — more than double the average 87 fils per kw/h rate distributors are charging consumers.

The government indicated that the gap has cost Jordan more than JD500 million in subsidised electricity to residential consumers alone, adding that a proposed rise in electricity tariffs will fail to close the widening gap.

Mini Red-Dead Agreed:

 The major event in 2013 in relation to water sector was the MoU which was signed between Jordan, Palestine and Israel to launch a “reduced” design of the Red-Dead Conveyor project. Through the concept of water swap between Jordan and Israel the project’s first phase will provide Jordan with 100 million cubic metres [mcm] of water annually at affordable prices… This amount will cover Jordan’s water needs during the next decade. The Red-Dead project will channel 100mcm of brine into the Dead Sea to reduce the deterioration of its water level. The project will also provide Palestine with 30mcm of freshwater to cover its water deficit, especially in the south of the West Bank. A total of 85-100mcm of water will be desalinated annually with Aqaba receiving 30mcm of desalinated water annually to cover the zone’s increasing development needs until the year 2040. Meanwhile, Israel will buy its share of 50mcm of desalinated water from the project at cost value and will sell Jordan the same amount of water in the northern part of the Jordan Valley at a cost of JD 0.27 per cubic metre.

In 2013 the government has decided to hit strong on water theft in Jordan. There are 1,000 unlicensed water wells in different places in the Kingdom and those operating them are selling water to citizens at high prices. Many owners of illegal water wells were selling water at prices that reached JD2,000 per day, which has prompted the ministry to file some 800 lawsuits against them. The Ministry of Water and Irrigation stated that between 50 and 100 million cubic metres (mcm) of water are extracted from these wells annually, around half the amount pumped from the Disi aquifer in southern Jordan. The Kingdom’s water needs in 2013 stand at 1,400mcm, with the annual deficit reaching 550mcm.

The outcomes of “Arab Spring”:

Another major source of extra pressure on water resources in Jordan has been the continuous influx of Syrian refugees to Jordan and especially on the groundwater aquifer in Northern governorates. A recent study by the Ministry of Water and Irrigation warned that it was only a matter of time before the main aquifer lying beneath the Zaatari camp became polluted. Overpumping to meet the demand of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees is not the only risk facing the aquifer, according to the study, which noted that pollution due to wastewater leakage is also expected within one to ten years.

More than 580,000 Syrians have taken refuge in the Kingdom since the conflict in their country erupted in March 2011. Over 70 per cent of Syrian refugees in Jordan live amongst host communities, while the rest are accommodated at the Zaatari camp and the Mreijeb Al Fhoud Camp in Zarqa Governorate. The influx of refugees is placing pressure on the local sewage network, causing it to overflow frequently, according to officials and residents of Mafraq. The study indicated that over 34.164 million cubic metres of wastewater are generated annually by Syrian refugees in Jordan.

Those clear signs of danger, however did not stop Jordan from taking a very peculiar decision to install a second refugee camp above Al Azraq aquifer, one of the most important groundwater resources in Jordan!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Prince Hassan writes: Water Cooperation for a Secure World

On November 28th, 2013, HRH Prince Hassan will be officially launching the new Strategic Foresight Group report “Water Cooperation for a Secure World” in Amman, Jordan. The following article is a curtain raiser to the launch and discusses key messages from the report:


By El Hassan bin Talal and Sundeep Waslekar

 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon has repeatedly emphasised the need to explore the linkage between water, peace and security. Now, new research by Strategic Foresight Group demonstrates that he has been right to do so. Empirical evidence in 148 countries and 205 shared river basins indicates that any two nations that are engaged in active water cooperation do not go to war.

Of the 148 countries covered by the report, Water Cooperation for a Secure World, 37 are at the risk of going to war over issues other than water, including land, religion, history and ideology. These also happen to be precisely the 37 countries which do not engage in active water cooperation with their neighbours.

The good news is that more than 100 of those countries which promote water cooperation in both letter and practice also enjoy peaceful and secure relationships with their neighbouring countries. Water and peace are interdependent.

Nonetheless, and despite the growing international consensus in the international community on the significance of water as an instrument of cooperation (as reflected in the UN’s designation of 2013 as the Year of Water Cooperation), many analysts continue to project water as a source of potential conflict. It is true that lakes, rivers and glaciers around the world are shrinking.  Growing pressures of population, economic growth, urbanisation, climate change and deforestation can further deplete water resources, thus causing social and economic upheavals, but this need not be so.

Active water cooperation can help overcome environmental challenges and usher in a new era of peace, trust and security. Beyond the essential legal agreements, active cooperation also requires sustained institutions of trans-boundary cooperation; joint investment programmes; collective management of water related infrastructure; a system for regularly and jointly monitoring water flows together with a shared vision of the best allocation of water resources between agriculture and other sectors; and, a forum for frequent interaction between top decision makers. An institutional infrastructure should enable political leaders to discuss exchanges between water and other public goods such as transit, national security or large public works.  The underlying emphasis must be placed on harnessing the benefits of a river, rather than on squabbling about the shares of depleting flows.

The new Strategic Foresight Group report introduces the Water Cooperation Quotient (WCQ) which measures the effectiveness and intensity of trans-boundary cooperation in water using the parameters mentioned above. The 37 countries that face the risk of war happen to have a WCQ below 33.33 in value.

Many parts of the world witness active water cooperation between riparian countries. In the Senegal River basin in West Africa, an autonomous body which is independent from any state owns the dams. In Latin America, the waters of Lake Titicaca are considered joint and indivisible by Peru and Bolivia. In the Mekong basin, flow data is harmonised among the lower riparian countries, while the upper riparian countries, China and Myanmar, are dialogue partners. The Rhine, Danube and Sava River basins, as well as Lake Constance in Europe and the Colorado River between the United States and Mexico are all jointly managed on a daily basis. These countries all enjoy peaceful and stable relations.

The benefits of active water cooperation, both in terms of economic growth and in previously unknown levels of peace, as evidenced in both the developed and parts of the developing world such as Central America, West Africa, and Southeast Asia should not be denied to West Asia or other regions. Such cooperation however is premised on an intellectual framework for cooperation, rather than confrontation, or the “Blue Peace way of thinking” where water is seen as an instrument of collaboration rather than a cause of crisis.

We have together developed the Blue Peace approach, in a process supported by the Swiss and Swedish governments over the last three and half years.  It entails the development of a community of political leaders, parliamentarians, government officials, media leaders, and experts from regions facing political discord, to encourage the use of water to promote peace and the protection and enhancement of the human environment. Such a community can pave the way in establishing regional cooperation councils for the sustainable management of trans-boundary waters to facilitate joint monitoring of water flows; to harmonise standards to measure water and climate indicators; to negotiate joint investment plans in water related large projects; and, to discuss exchanges between water and other public goods. This can result in the improvement of the WCQ to a level higher than 33.33 in Asia and Africa. Indeed we urge all countries to use the WCQ to assess their own performance with regards to their cooperation with neighbours and thereby to enhance the prospects of peace and security for themselves.

It is our profound hope that together we can begin the process of implementing the Blue Peace framework across the world by crafting institutional instruments, globally acceptable legal regimes, dialogue mechanisms and a worldwide Blue Peace network.  If we take a few steps in this direction this year, the proclamation of 2013 as the International Year of Water Cooperation will prove to be meaningful.

HRH Prince Hassan bin Talal is the Chair of the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation. Sundeep Waslekar is the President of Strategic Foresight Group.

Posted in Political context, Regional Context, Water management | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Human Rights Approach to Environmental Management in Jordan

The connection between a clean environment and human rights is not a recent linkage. Environmental rights are essentially associated with the rights of a human for legal protection and his/her right of life and development as confirmed by the international declaration for human rights in 1948. The first actual international treaty on environmental rights did not materialize until the year 2001, which was UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters was adopted on 25th June 1998 in the Danish city of Aarhus at the Fourth Ministerial Conference in the ‘Environment for Europe’ process. However, the roots of the struggle for environmental rights clearly coincided with the legislations and mechanisms for the implementation of human rights around the world.

Nevertheless, the basic human rights, which are incorporated in civil, political, economic, cultural and social rights, are considered an indirect gateway to environmental rights. Therefore, there has always been a need to develop an international legal text that covers the environmental rights in a direct manner, and has the power of practical legislations. However, three elements can be considered as integral for any human-rights approach to environmental governance at the national level:

1- The right to a clean and safe environment:

These are the basic environmental rights, but they are the most difficult to define. Talking about a clean environment requires determining this environment in figures and standards. This might be different from one geographical area to another and from one political – economic environment to another, but the most important criteria is to have clean water. In Jordan there are a plethora of environmental regulations, specifications and standards for environmental quality but there is no comprehensive system of monitoring and public access to results that can determine the actual quality of the environment. Monitoring for water and air quality is conducted by various public and research institutions but rarely connected to decision making processes.

2- The right of working to protect the environment

This is a general right found in the universal declaration for human rights and reflects the right of individuals and groups to organize themselves and take action to protect the environment. Such a right, is directly linked to political and civil rights, in addition to the right of assembly and public action through popular organizations. This is naturally one of the rights that are threatened in many countries of the world. In Jordan the legal and institutional conditions are suitable for environmental activism as many civil society organizations emerge to protect the environment and many independent research and community organizations are also joining forces. During the past two years the environmental community in Jordan was successfully mobilized to protest controversial projects including the building of a tourism resort and an military academy in natural forests areas that constitute only 1% of Jordan’s area. The focus of environmental advocacy now is on the social and environmental campaign against the Jordanian nuclear energy programme that is drawing a lot of criticism.

3- The right of access to information and participation in decision making

This right is linked directly to democracy and transparency, where the citizen is allowed to play an effective role in protecting the surrounding environment and participate in making crucial decisions that affect them. This right in particular is the essence of the European Aarhus treaty, which includes clear text regarding environmental rights, the most important of which “Every person has the right to live in an environment that is appropriate for his health and welfare”. The treaty goes on to assert the right of people to obtain the important information regarding the pressures that have an impact on the “clean environment” in order to help them take the appropriate decisions regarding these pressures. In Jordan environmental information is usually protected by public organizations that produce the data and sometimes require financial input to release such data. Ironically, the best sources of environmental information about Jordan are from international and regional organizations working in Jordan.

Posted in Governance, Political context | 1 Comment

Arab Climate Policies and the “M” Word

It is obvious now that the world of climate change policies will not be the same as we knew it for the past 20 years. Durban’s COP 17 has ended the differentiation between developed (Annex 1) and developing countries (Non Annex 1) in terms of climate obligations. It is only a matter of time, and arm twisting in negotiations until developing countries (including Arab countries from Saudi Arabia to Mauritania) will have to develop sound climate policies.
While Arab countries have been hiding for ages under the slogan of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities” for shying away from any climate change obligations, they have to wake up to face a new world. A world that will contain the dirty word that no one wants to say or hear, the famous ‘M” word that stands for Mitigation.
The last two COPs under the UNFCCC have strengthened the need to develop what is so politically called ‘Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions” (NAMAs) which will have to include specific plans for mitigating Greenhouse Gas emissions from developing countries, subject to their own socio-economic conditions and the availability of funding and technology transfer from developed countries and the developing countries’ own resources.
Arab climate policy makers will have to enter a new territory where mitigation and not only adaptation must be mainstreamed in the national planning context and be officially communicated to UNFCC. This is NOT a disaster, nor an outcome of a global conspiracy from developed countries against our emerging economies. It is a step that has to be taken and we should better think of it very soon. This is how I think a national mitigation policy can be developed safely and without impacting Arab countries’ quest for development.
For any Arab country that is still pursuing socio-economic development and growth, any climate change mitigation plan should be opportunity-based and focus on low-cost mitigation option (low-hanging fruits). Such a plan should be able to support a transition to a sustainable low-carbon economy without jeopardizing development gains.
The major process for developing a realistic mitigation plan for an Arab country could include the following steps:
1- Continuous monitoring and analyses of political, policy, economic, social and technological trends in the major mitigation sectors (energy/transport, wastes, agriculture, industries, land use, etc…) to identify challenges and opportunities for GHG mitigation.
2- Analysis of the legal framework of the mitigation sectors and how appropriate it is for mitigation measures and recommending modifications.
3- Conducting the GHG emissions inventory that identifies major emission sectors and the contribution of each sector to the overall national GHG emissions and trends with the latest available figures.
4- Conducting a mitigation analysis by determining a baseline scenario and a mitigation scenario with all associated political, technological, economic and social factors integrated.
5- Development of the comprehensive mitigation plan focusing on opportunities (energy efficiency, renewable energy, waste-to-energy systems, green buildings, technology transfer, sustainable agriculture, etc…) and determining the reduction unit cost for each sector.
6- Identification of mitigation opportunities associated with the global Climate Change governance system that could enhance access to financial and technological resources to enhance mitigation. This will include a major focus on CDM and other UNFCCC-related instruments.
7- Publishing the suggested mitigation programme as a policy document that targets decision makers, investors, donors and the civil society. This policy document should identify and highlight available opportunities for mitigation and propose public support mechanisms in the form of economic incentives, subsidies, legislative reforms, institutional empowerment and technological support.
8- Establishing a national representative platform to discuss the mitigation programme and turning it into a detailed national plan.
9- Preparation of the national mitigation plan 2013-2020 with key performance indicators, logical framework analysis, financial allocations and targets, institutional responsibilities and monitoring & evaluation plan. The plan should be divided into short term and long term objectives as well as sub-national components (cities, governorates). The plan should also include detailed pilot projects and options for investing in research and development aspects for the emergence of local innovations for mitigation technologies.
10- Publishing and endorsing the national mitigation plan at the Cabinet level and providing it with the necessary political support.
11- Exploration of new and emerging opportunities for mitigation in the post-Kyoto global governance framework including REDD+.
12- Exploring the possibility of establishing a GHG database where GHG emissions are voluntarily reported and documented to identify trends, threats and opportunities for rapid mitigation action.
13- Processing the mitigation plan into education, learning and awareness products directed at the community to mobilize support and understanding.
14- Proposition of an independent monitoring and evaluation system for the mitigation plan. Both government and civil society will be empowered to report back on the progress of the plan using measurable and realistic indicators on annual basis and compiling results in official (governmental) and non-official monitoring reports that include lessons learned and opportunities for improvement.
I don’t think this is impossible to achieve, do you?

Posted in Climate Change, Economic policies, Energy, Mitigation, Sustainable business | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

The Demise of the Red-Dead Canal?

In a recent presentation delivered in a working breakfast organized by EDAMA Minister of Water and Agriculture Hazim Al Naser has dropped a bombshell. The Minister has revealed that the government is now thinking seriously of replacing the Red-Dead Conveyor project with a series of lower budget projects that would provide drinking water to Jordan and its neighbors through the desalination of Red Sea water.

This is the 1st time that a high-level official suggests that the Red-Dead Sea project can be revoked. This is a decision that makes sense and comes at the right time.

During its presentation of the final results of the Environmental and Socio-economic feasibility studies for the project, the World Bank and the Ministry of Environment provided the regional stakeholders with many reasons to doubt the feasibility of the whole project.  If you have some time during Ramadan to read the full studies available here it would be a great educational exercise, but of not let me summarize the situation.

The plan is to pump 1.2 billion Cubic Meters of sea water from the Red Sea, pass it through a series of desalination plants, use the desalinated water for drinking, and discharge the brine to the Dead Sea, which should help restore it to its 20th century levels and prevent it from vanishing like the Aral Sea. The Dead Sea is a unique ecosystem — it is the world’s saltiest lake at the lowest altitude. Its surface is currently about 420 metres below sea level. Excessive use of tributary water from the Jordan and Yarmouk rivers has reduced its level by 27 metres since the 1960s, a trend exacerbated by climate change and increased evaporation.

Red Dead

Although the feasibility and EIA studies recommended going ahead with the project they raised more questions than they answered, casting a shadow of uncertainty over its future.

The Dead Sea level will not be restored:

The seawater modelling exercises used in the studies indicate that it will be safe to discharge a maximum of 350 million cubic metres of sea water brine into the Dead Sea every year, but that any additional discharge will be detrimental to the environment.

The interaction between sulphate from the Red Sea and calcium from the Dead Sea will form a white layer of gypsum on the surface of the Dead Sea, destroying the aesthetic value and ecological integrity that currently attracts tourists to the area. The mixing of waters will also cause algae to grow, which would be devastating for the mineral industries that thrive along the Dead Sea’s shores.

The cap on discharge volume means the project can’t meet its original objective, since any realistic restoration of the Dead Sea to its condition around four decades ago would require adding 700 million cubic meters annually — double the threshold considered safe for the environment

Huge  Energy requirements:

Environmental safety is not the only risk. The project is also challenged by affordability. It needs to raise US$10 billion, and the only financing option is a huge private investment by a company that could sell water at a high-enough price to recoup its capital investment.

The financial feasibility study assumed that about 80 per cent of the project’s costs will be provided by loans and donors, with only a fifth from countries — both difficult in this global state of austerity.

And the project will need 800 megawatts of energy to drive the desalination, pumping and operation of the facilities — a requirement that cannot be met with the current, short-term forecasts of energy supply in the region.

The new option:

Faced with such barriers, any reasonable decision maker will pause and think a lot before committing to this dangerous adventure. During his above-mentioned presentation Minister Al Naser proposed another solution.

The alternative is based on a series of smaller scale and lower budget projects that start with the treatment and desalination of  Red Sea to produce 85 MCM of freshwater and 100 MCM of brine that will go into the Dead Sea. The produced freshwater will be provided to both Israel (50 MCM) and Palestine (35 MCM). In return Jordan will receive the same amount from Israel from sources in the northern Jordan valley.

Now I am getting confused and worried. Why desalinate and then sell the water to Israel while we can potentially link the resulting desalinated water to the alraedy existing Disi project pipeline?. I am not an engineer nor a plumber, and would love to know why such a linkage between the desalination plan in Aqaba and Disi infrastructure is not feasible.

This could provide a strategic additional source to bridge the water demand gap and at a much lower price, both financially and politically.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Should we drink from Disi Water?

One of Jordan’s most ambitious strategic developmental projects has been actually achieved. After years of ups and downs on a bumpy financial and administrative road the Disi water conveyor project is functional now supplying Amman and the middle area with 100 MCM of water each year.

Disi pipe

In Jordan there is always a reason to feel alarmed, worried and skeptical about every project. Whether this is justified or not remains to be proven. For the Disi project there is a huge shadow of doubt that has emerged since 2009 when a scientific study published by Duke University reached a frightening conclusion that the water of the Disi aquifer contain very high levels of radioactivity that is detrimental to human health and may cause many health effects including the “C” disease. Although all fossil water aquifers in the world contain various levels of radioactivity the one in Disi, according to the study is highly dangerous in its content.

The study, wired throughout the world by Reuters caused panic in Jordan. The Ministry of Water and Irrigation did not help at that time by pointing accusation fingers at the fact that the main author of the study was an Israeli academic, who was assisted by a prominent Jordanian expert and other American researchers.

The study occupied the psyche of the people in Jordan and almost all media outlets. No one cared to question the methodology which used sampling from a few wells in an area that has not been used for either drinking or agricultural purposes in the last decade. Moreover, Disi water has been used for drinking purposes in Aqaba since 30 years. Currently, Aqaba has the second lowest rate of cancer incident among Jordanian governorates (40 cases per 100,000 population) according to the National Cancer Registry for 2010. Obviously, Disi water has not caused a Cancer epidemic in Aqaba.

According to information I received from 4 trusted sources (officials and researchers) during the past few days I can say the following.

The Disi water that currently reaches your home tank originates from a collection of 50 wells in the Disi Aquifer. Volumes of water are collected and then pumped to the mixing and treatment facilities in Dabouq and Abu Alanda. The average dose of total radioactivity in this water originating from Disi is 0.83 mSv for 1 year exposure. While at Dabouq the Disi water is mixed with freshwater from Zai at a ratio of 1:1 which makes the final dose of the water pumped to your home 0.45 mSv. This concentration is based on the assumption of drinking 2.0 L per day for the period of 70 years.

On the website of the Water Authority of Jordan there is a very useful document in Arabic describing the Disi water treatment process in relation to radioactivity.

According to the WHO, Background radiation exposures vary widely across the Earth, but the average is about 2.4mSv/year,with the highest local levels being up to 10 times higher without any detected increased health risks from population studies. According to figures from the Jordanian Nuclear Regulatory Commission the background of radiation exposure in Jordan is 1.8 which makes 0.5 mSv a small addition to background levels and still within global average.

In Australia, which is highly dependent of fossil groundwater for drinking purposes the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG) recommend that that a guideline dose of 1 mSv per year should be applied for radioactivity in drinking water. This is even more than the dose in the Disi water reaching the consumers.

Should we drink from the Disi water?

For me, as a father and a consumer I trust the sources I have consulted and in a country that is the 4th poorest in water availability in the world will drink the Disi water. As for anyone rightly concerned about reducing any potential of developing nasty diseases I suggest quitting smoking, cleaning the water tanks on the roofs of your households and fixing any problems of radon exposure in the house. In the meantime, I would always request and ask the government for transparency and the continuous announcement of water quality for the public opinion.

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Five Reasons for saving the Ministry of Environment in Jordan

Jordan went through an exceptional week. On Nov 13th the Prime Minister Abdullah Nsour, a veteran public bureaucrat and a former deputy has shocked Jordanians with a controversial decision to cut all subsidies on oil derivatives. This has resulted in a rapid and strong public outcry where thousands of protestors took to the streets of almost every Jordanian city and governorate venting their anger and demanding a reversal of the decision. Cutting oil subsidies is presumably one of the major conditions the IMF is imposing in Jordan to provide it with a life-line loan to save its budget deficit resulting from external factors (stopping natural gas imports from Egypt and the need to buy oil from international markets) and internal (overspending and corruption).

To show the Government’s seriousness in implementing austerity measures and to balance the painful economic decision that has been coupled to an existentialist political crisis, the PM decided also to lead a massive “restructuring of public institutions” that resulted in a very surprising decision to dissolve the 10 years old Ministry of Environment and delegate its authority and function the Ministry of Municipalities.

The decision that has been presented in the form of a proposed law to be discussed by the next Parliament due to be elected on January 23rd, has shocked the environmental community in Jordan and cast a huge cloud of desperation on the staff of the Ministry. During the past few days there have been some movement by environmental activists including former Minister of Environment Khalid Irani and a coalition of national NGOs to convince the government to reverse its decision. This article is a modest contribution to this justified effort and explains why dissolving the Ministry of Environment is a bad decision:

1-      Against the course of history: this decision brings the clock 18 years back, when Environment was managed by a small, disappointed and marginalized department at the Ministry of Municipalities. After the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 the whole international environmental governance system was improved and all countries started to enhance their institutional set up. Jordan decided to create a special entity called the “General Corporation of Environmental protection GCEP” which was reporting again to the Minister of Municipalities.  In almost most cases environmental was marginalized and the political power of the GCEP was eroded. In the early years of 21st century the idea of evolving into a Ministry of Environment appeared and gained momentum until the Ministry was created in 2003. Since then almost all Arab countries and maybe the majority of the world created independent ministries for environment. The last 10 years witnessed a slow but steady build up of the legal and institutional framework for environmental protection in the country and it would be such a shame to let all this effort vanish in thin air.

2-      A negative political message: By dissolving the Ministry of Environment Jordan sends a very negative message to its own people and to the international community. Lack of political commitment in environmental protection means opening up the nation to all kinds of environmental violations and pollution, neglect of environmental laws and principles and threatening the quality of life of the current and future generations. In addition, this will put Jordan in an awkward position in its international environmental governance network and risks failing to attract any global partnerships and resources to achieve sustainability.

3-      Loss and not a gain for national economy: The current budget of the Ministry of Environment is 3.4 Million JDs from the treasury in running and capital costs. It is currently implementing projects worth around 200.0 Million USD including the massive environmental claims programmes (integrated ecosystem restoration of the badia worth 160.0 Million JDs). By dissolving the Ministry Jordan will only save the salary of a Minister but will most probably lose millions of USD of international aid that contribute to sustainable development and improving human resources and technical infrastructure of environmental management in the country.  Almost all donors in Jordan are working directly with the Ministry in implementing environmental projects and programmes linked to national priorities and international obligations and they will all be drastically impacted if the Ministry of downgraded with almost no sustainability of existing projects and low probability of securing new projects.

4-      Breakdown in institutional and legal frameworks: The current Environmental protection law and the various bylaws that have resulted from it are forming a strong and organized legal framework that requires further improvement and not deep weakening. The legal basis for many environmental activities (Environmental impact assessments, environmental licensing, establishment of protected areas, management of wastes, monitoring of air and water quality, policies for sustainable development, regulation of investments, etc…) are all embedded within the current environmental law and will all be lost or subjected to legal gaps once the Ministry is dissolved.

5-      Not adapting to threats and opportunities of future: the ever-increasing complexity of national, local and international environmental pressures need a stronger Ministry with a wider mandate and enhanced legal, institutional and technical resources. The potential impacts of Climate Change and other related pressures require the presence of a strong Ministry with a mandate to respond to Climate Change risks and benefit from opportunities opened up by the international climate management regime. Jordan will certainly lose its current competitive advantage in resource mobilization once the Ministry if lost and will get exposed to the risks while unable to benefit from resources.

The Jordanian environmental community needs the help of all its supporters and friends, including international organizations and donors to save the Ministry and continue with the path of partnership that has been effective throughout the past decade. If any certain agency (i.e Ministry of Environment) is in need to enhance its performance it should be supported and not face the death penalty justified by an austerity measure that will not save any money to the treasury and will result in the loss of international aid and a severe deterioration and erosion of its natural resources.

Posted in Governance, Political context | 2 Comments

Connecting Climate Change to Poverty reduction in Jordan

Climate change is expected to have a detrimental impact upon human development and poverty in Jordan. This will occur by increasing the severity of resource scarcity, which in turn makes access to natural resources more difficult. The poor are expected to be the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change as they possess the least assets and resources to adapt to its impacts. Increasing the ability of the poor and local communities to adapt to climate change, in the coming years, is extremely important. To date the Government of Jordan has little policy or programming in place to do this.

Jordan feeling the heat:

A comprehensive analysis of available climate data (1961 – 2005) published in the Second National Communication on Climate Change in Jordan (2009) has revealed clear trends in temperature and rainfall. Both maximum and minimum temperatures in selected meteorological stations have shown significant increasing trends between 0.3°C – 2.8°C. This is parallel to an observed 5 – 20% decrease in precipitation in the majority of meteorological stations across the country. Only 2 out of the 19 stations show an increase of 5 – 10% in precipitation.

Climate change projections for Jordan show an increase in temperature of less than 2°C, by the year 2050. Warming was found to be stronger during the warm months of the year while less warming is projected to occur in the cold months of the year.

Results of the vulnerability assessment contained in the Second National Communication report anticipate detrimental impacts especially on water and agriculture. On water resources, the impact of climate change is expected to be significant as a result of reductions in precipitation and projected changes in its spatial and temporal distribution. The analysis of the incremental scenarios had shown that changes in precipitation and temperature would highly affect the amounts of monthly surface run-off in the Yarmouk and Zarqa River Basins. It was found that the most vulnerable scenarios to climate change impacts on water resources are those when temperature will be increased by more than 2°C and precipitation will not be increased. Even in some scenarios, the increase in precipitation by 20% does not compensate for the 2°C increase in temperature.

For the agriculture sector the results showed that climate change could have significant impacts in particular on rainfed agriculture. The livestock sector and overall food production in the country were identified as most significantly impacted through climate change impacts on rainfed cultivation and on arid and semi-arid rangelands.  The report also identifies some expected impacts on health conditions, including physiological disorders, skin rashes and dehydration, eye cataracts and damage of public health infrastructure, and deaths and injuries.

Can the poor adapt?

Development and climate literature identifies major impacts of climate change on livelihoods and poverty through the examination of current documented cases throughout the world. Climate change is expected to reduce the capacity of poor to cope with social and environmental pressures and degrade developmental gains especially related to the achievement of the MDGs. The impacts are also expected to be gender-based with roles of men and women impacted in a way related to climate change. Women will be obliged to exert more effort in securing and managing scarce natural resources while men will be pressured to seek additional/alternative income sources that may see them migrating from rural to urban areas.

The main areas of poor households’ vulnerability to climate change include:

  1. Dependence on natural  resources that are vulnerable to climate change;
  2. A lack of assets which  hinders effective adaptation;
  3. Settlements in high-risk  areas (i.e. drought prone); and
  4. Low levels of education  and professional skills that prevent members of poor households for  shifting to climate-resilient sources of income.

There is a considerable gap in our collective understanding of the details of social vulnerability to climate change in Jordan. A comprehensive impact assessment study should be conducted to identify the major direct and indirect climate change impacts on poverty and socio-economic factors in Jordan, with special focus on geographical areas most prone to climate change impacts. An informed judgment can de derived at this stage, based on national climate assessment studies and international case studies that the following social groups can be most affected by climate change. These include:

  • Farmers depending on rainfed agriculture;
  • Farmers depending on small scale irrigated agriculture;
  • Families dependent on livestock management;
  • Populations more prone to heat waves; and
  • Population suffering from the lack of proper access to safe and affordable drinking water.

The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) has recently started to assess the adaptive capacities of local communities around protected areas regarding the impacts of climate change. For the first time in Jordan the RSCN has developed an Adaptive Capacity Index produced from results of both a literature review and semi structured interviews. The Adaptive Capacity Index was generated based on several factors formulated from specific indicators and determinants including human, social, physical, environmental and economic indicators. The RSCN recommends some adaptation interventions including: (i) supporting water harvesting practices; (ii) water collecting wells; (iii) infrastructure restoration; (iv) best agricultural practices; (v) encouraging changing current crops to more feasible drought tolerant crops; (vi) encouraging the use of gray water for irrigation; (vii) enhancing market access of local agricultural and traditional products; (viii) raising awareness regarding climate change; and (ix) providing assistance and guidance to local communities in addition to improving governance systems while considering gender.

This is a rich, urgent and yet unexplored field for sustainable development in Jordan. Climate change is not only a global phenomenon with theoretical dramatic consequences, but a present danger to the future of sustainability in Jordan and other semi-arid countries. The cost of inaction is much higher than any visionary action to be taken very soon.

Posted in Adaptation, Agriculture, Climate Change, Future Risks, Vulnerability, Water management | 1 Comment

Water is the defining factor for development and peace in the Middle East

Water is an issue of life and death in Arab countries and is THE most limiting factor for sustainable development in this area. The Arab region is among the most water-scarce in the world. Due to increase in population growth and bad management, the average annual per capita share is declining from below 1000 cubic meters now, already below the level of water scarcity, to below 500 cubic meters as early as 2015, defined as severe water stress. World average is 6500 cubic meters. Major water sources are from outside Arab borders or shared, and most available water resources are already developed

Not only does the Arab world suffer from physical scarcity of water resources it is plagued with bad management, wasteful practices and fragmentation of efforts. To be fair and honest, this region has witnessed some of the most interesting trials for sustainable water management using non-conventional water resources, engaging in public-private partnerships for water resources and utility management and mobilizing communities through awareness, education and media campaigns. The cumulated efforts of local professionals and communities, in addition to the evolution of policies, legislation and practical guidelines on sustainable and integrated water resource management have all contributed to a paradigm shift in water policy and planning.

Yet there is something essential missing. The preferred options for water management in the region still depend on engineering solutions and megaprojects that will move water from source to consumption points through pipes and networks. This approach will eventually dry all water resources to the last drop. What this region needs is more involvement of natural resource management scientists and communities that focus on the protection and sustainable use of water resources rather than piping them with state-of-the-art technologies. Some of the best answers can be found in the form of ancient aqueducts developed by the native populations to adapt to arid conditions by sustainable use of natural resources including rainwater collection. Solutions can be found with more emphasis on community actions and ecological wisdom than engineering approaches.

Water is THE defining factor for peace and development in the Middle East. It lies at the heart of the complex political conflict in Palestine/Israel and is one of the most difficult issues to be tackled in the final status negotiations, if they ever launch. Bilateral relations between some neighboring Arab countries suffer from frequent deterioration due to the inability to reach binding and fair agreements for allocation and use of shared water resources.

I do not intend to mentions statistics and specific cases about the water situation in the region. The Internet is endowed with resources and research about water calamities in the Middle East and also with proven and potential solutions.

The main message from the post is that Arab countries need to adopt a more integrated approach to water management that will take into consideration the element of sustainability through introducing new and sometimes painful policy measures to guarantee adequate use of available water resources and to launch an honest battle against the corruption and misguided practices in the water sector that result in wasting precious resources. This transition can be derived by the adoption of a human rights approach to water management than engineering solutions. Such an approach will focus on the optimization of water allocation among the three main sectors of agriculture, domestic and industrial while taking care of the sustainability of water ecosystem and watersheds that should continue to provide water resources for future generations.

Posted in Agriculture, Desalination, Future Risks, Water management | 1 Comment

No protected areas please, we are in the “Arab Spring”!

One of the most bizarre consequences of the impact of the “Arab Spring” in Jordan is the new threat to the concept and sustainability of protected areas and natural reserves. After the wave of public protests sweeping the region asking for better governance and enhancing public services the government of Jordan started to feel the pressure and the political-social balance in the country is about to change with more empowerment and mobilization of the people and erosion of some state authority.

Jordan has a unique biodiversity despite its relatively small size and is home to 7 jewels in the form of natural reserves that attract local and foreign sustainable tourism activities, and harbor local socio-economic development initiatives that provide income and alternative livelihoods to local communities. For more details about Jordan’s protected areas and biodiversity go to

Yarmouk Protected Area in the north of Jordan 

Although the expanded public space of freedom of gathering and expression has resulted in the mobilization of some genuine and effective environmental movements against the proposed nuclear programme and the destruction of Bergish forest to build a military complex, some other protests were detrimental to the environmental agenda. The public protests raised one of the most controversial and sensitive issues in Jordan which is the “historic claims to land” by local tribes that used to “manage” such lands and have historic rights prior to the establishment of the State. Many tribes and local communities requested the return of their “claimed historic rights” to lands they used to manage including some areas designated as potential Protected Areas.

This case was very obvious in Jabal Masouda (Petra) where members of local communities showed their open resistance to the establishment of the Jabal Masouda protected area by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN), which is the NGO officially mandated to establish and manage protected areas. The local administration, represented by the Petra Regional Authority provided support to the claims in an attempt to keep the area within the proposed economic development plans but not as a Protected Area.  The RSCN had to find an alternative area that represents the targeted ecosystem/habitat in Jabal Masouda and found their aim in the Shobak area which is still under negotiation with the government. The same case emerged here with some local communities asking for land rights, while another main player, the National Resources Authority requesting the designation of large percentage of the area for mining purposes. Until now the designation file of Shobak is still frozen by the government with no apparent breakthrough in the deadlock.

In the Yarmouk Protected Area some local tribal figures leaders and parliamentarians asked the government to abolish its decision to establish the Protected Area, again on the basis of the historic rights to lands and to continue grazing and unplanned use of natural resources and ecosystem services. In this case RSCN took an uncompromising position to refuse any changes to the legal status and boundaries of the PA, fearing that such precedence may open up the door for more claims in other PAs.

This change in the context of political economy and power will certainly pose real challenges for RSCN and the environmental community in general to respond in an early, effective and participatory manner to the request to change the status of PAs. For any new PA as well a detailed socio-political assessment should be conducted to identify potential sources of risks and mitigate them before any area is about to be declared as protected.

One of the options that can be pursued is to conduct a detailed analysis of land tenure in any area that is considered suitable and important to have a protected area. With the current controversy over historic rights to lands by the local communities,it is vital to avoid any areas where local communities have a belief of historic rights and if such a case appears should go the extra mile in gaining the trust of local communities before engaging in the establishment of PAs. The development of sustainable socio-economic and conservation projects could be an entry point to strengthening relationships with local communities.

The RSCN and the protected areas themselves are unfortunately paying the price for the lack of trust that the local communities are showing towards the public institutions and policies. It is important that such marvelous achievements in the Jordanian environmental sector be protected from the impacts of the Arab Spring and the legacy of bad public policies.

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Urbanization and Environmental Change in Jordan

Jordanian cities were historically built on, or adjacent to water resources, especially groundwater. While cities expanded, the natural recharge area available for rain to infiltrate the soil and recharge the groundwater dramatically decreased.

The city of Amman is a clear example of rapid and exponential growth that defies sustainability criteria. The area of Amman was 52 Km2 in 1952, increased to 92 Km2 by 1985 and to 576 Km2 in 1987 and in 2007 made a huge growth to reach 1680 Km2. The area of Amman is currently bigger than Berlin (892 Km2), Moscow (1081 Km2) and Los Angeles (1290 Km2). However the population density in Amman is 1300 persons/km 2 compared to 3847 in Berlin, 9736 in Moscow and 2972 in Los Angeles. This huge area with sparse populations puts a lot of demand for infrastructure services and networks which means higher costs of more disturbances to natural conditions and systems. The Amman master plan of 2008 assumes that the population growth will reach 6.5 million in 2025 which can only happen based on a population increase rate of 6.6% annually while the current population growth rate is 2.2%. The masterplan however, focus on intensification of urbanization in specific area trying to contain unsustainable urban sprawl.

Outside Amman the urban expansion plans are even more deteriorating for sustainability. The rapid expansion of municipalities is driven by social pressures to increase the values of land by adding them to the planning zones. This results in the spread of sparse population that requires water, wastewater, energy, transportation, education and health services and resulting degradation of natural resources and high costs of delivering services. Most of there communities are served with cesspools that cause groundwater pollution since they are not connected to the wastewater network.

Rural to urban migration has become a core fact of life in Jordan.  The number of citizens living in urban areas almost doubled from 40% to 72% between 1952 and 2004. This is due to rural-to-urban migration and the fact that immigrants usually prefer to immigrate to cities rather than rural areas. Combined, the three largest cities (Amman, Zarqa and Irbid) make up 71.4% of the Jordanian population as of 2009. However, rising rural-to-urban migration leads to increasing pressure on housing, basic amenities, increase
demand for food (leading to inflation) and rising inequalities in living standards, both within the country, and within urban centers themselves.

Urbanization in Jordan is rapidly outstretching the nature’s carrying capacity in urban center, and it will be of no surprise to wittness gradual conflicts, competetion for resources and all other symptoms of ailing cities such unsustainable policies and practices continue.

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Who Cares about Climate Change in Jordan?

Batir Wardam

Climate change is becoming a major threat to sustainable development. While development can be simply described by a process that enhances people’s opportunities for s better livelihood, climate change is one of the emerging challenging facing the people of Jordan to achieve development goals.

Identification and analysis of environmental and socio-economic impacts of climate change on Jordan is a vital step in integrating climate change into socio-economic development planning and enhancing associated institutional, individual and systematic capacities. The severity of the impacts of climate change has to be identified based on sound science, and then linked to socio-economic impacts especially on human vulnerability, taking into consideration gender perspectives.

It is essential to transform the conventional ‘wisdom” that climate change is a long-term issue that is mainly related to industrialized countries and not to developing countries like Jordan.  Although Jordan is a modest contributor to GHG emissions (20.14 MT of CO2 eq in 2000) it is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the impacts of climate change, especially in water and agriculture sectors that are organically linked to socio-economic conditions.

According to Jordan’s Second National Communication (SNC) report to the UNFCCC released in 2009 but based on emission inventory statistics from 2000 Jordan contributed only 20.14 million tones of CO2 equivalent of Greenhouse Gas Emissions to the atmosphere. The main sector contributing to the emissions was energy, including transport (74.0%) followed by wastes (13.5%), industrial processes (7.9%), land use, land use change and forestry (3.7%) and agriculture (0.9%).

A comprehensive analysis of available climate data (1961-2005) published in the second national communication has revealed clear trends in temperature and rainfall. Both maximum and minimum temperatures in selected meteorological stations have shown significant increasing trends between 0.3- 2.8 C. This is parallel to an observed 5-20% decrease in precipitation in the majority of meteorological stations. Only 2 out of 19 stations show an increase of 5-10% in precipitation at the same time.

Climate change projections for Jordan show an increase in temperature of less than 2 C by the year 2050. Warming was found to be stronger during the warm months of the year while less warming is projected to occur in the cold months of the year.

 Results of the vulnerability assessment contained in the second national communication report anticipate detrimental impacts especially on water and agriculture. On water resources, the impact of climate change is expected to be significant as a result of decrease in precipitation and projected changes in its spatial and temporal distribution. The analysis of the incremental scenarios had shown that changes in precipitation and temperature will highly affect the amounts of monthly surface run-off in Yarmouk and Zarqa River Basins. It was found that the most vulnerable scenarios to climate change impacts on water resources are those when temperature will be increased by more than 2 C and precipitation will not be increased.

The various target audiences should be able to identify the real threats of climate change to the future of the country’s economy and social stability. Climate change is a multiplayer of existing developmental challenges and for a country like Jordan that is faced with baseline water scarcity, reduction of land productivity and increasing poverty and unemployment challenges, climate change is a grave additional challenge that should be taken into consideration at early stages of development.

The current indicators of the level of awareness to climate change in policy making are not encouraging. The energy, water, agriculture, health, poverty and transport strategies that have been shaping the development agenda in Jordan in the past few years have failed to identify climate change as a threat/challenge.  A major paradigm shift is necessary at the policy making level and also at the level of public and civil organization that are mandated with implementing development programmes.

Jordan is currently at a crossroads in term of its development challenges.. The current political and economic reform process has huge socio-economic implication and a new paradigm for sustainable development maybe required soon to respond to the challenges and opportunities exposed by the reform process. It is a perfect timing for climate change impacts to be fully mainstreamed in development planning.

Posted in Climate Change, Green Economy, Water management | 6 Comments

How I became an Environmentalist? A case for career selection

I hardly believe that it has been 20 years since I decided to pursue in environmental management. Prior to that I was lost between various choices that I was not convinced of, but I found my moment of inspiration through accidental reading of one document in 1992.

Raised as a teenager of a disciplined family of middle class in Amman I was enjoying my teenage year with many dreams. I was good at school but not exceptional. I had two passions for football and writing/reading and I wished I could a career in one of the two areas, or maybe linking the best of both worlds (Thanks Hanna Montana!)

I was an avid reader and writer. During my 9th, 10th and 11th grade I was in constant positive competition in writing articles and magazines with my lifelong friend Dr Ahmad Jamil Azem, who currently holds a Ph.D in political Sciences from Edinburgh University and works now at Cambridge. He was denied a position in the University of Jordan as assistant professor since he did not gain GID’s approval. Thanks to GID he fulfilled his true potential. I used to win most of the prizes not because I was smarter but maybe my handwriting was better. Remember no printers and computers in the 80s.

At the Tawjihi year I gave up on another dream to be the new Kenny Dalglish, scoring goals for Liverpool each week. I realized that I am not physically strong to compete in the English league. However, I never questioned my lousy skills!

I had also a dream of being a journalist but realized that it will not provide me with a good job and career. Jordan was still under the martial  law  in 1987 and there was no future for free journalism. I loved science and thought that a university degree in a scientific field would provide me with good livelihood and career. My Tawjihi score allowed me to study Engineering but I hated and loathed Calculus. I knew I would never make and shifted to the faculty of science studying biology.

I enjoyed study and life at university to the max, having good grades and excelling in biology topics that seemed complex. I benefited from my excellent English gained not from my school (Islamic Scientific College) but from extensive reading of English football magazines and listening to BBC’s sports coverage each day.

I graduated in flying colors and had a fantastic university life. When democratization started in 1989 I took the opportunity to participate in political life and had my own wall newspaper at the department of Biology until it was controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood students after the students’ council elections in 1993.

After finishing my BsC I wanted to continue Master’s Degree and I registered to specialize in microbiology or biochemistry. I was not convinced and started to see the world very limited and small, composed of test tubes, centrifuge machines, microscopes and the smell of chemicals. I spent the first year with anxiety. This was not the career I wanted.

In the autumn of 1992 I participated with a colleague of mine in organizing a small scientific fair and wanted some publications to display. I was told that ESCWA which was located in Amman has many publications so we got there and received reports and publications mainly related to environment resulting from the Rio earth Summit of 1992.

I was struck to the very depth of my soul. It was an eye opener experience. For the first time I saw how the world is interconnected and how it can be managed in an ethical. I spent 3 days reading Agenda 21, the global blue print on sustainable development. This is the second most remarkable document produced by the human race, right after the International Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

What a great opportunity to specialize in environmental sciences. I was a Biology graduate and would immediately pursue a thesis in environment. I met with Dr Alia Hatough-Bouran, then professor of Ecology in the University of Jordan and now our great Ambassador in the USA. She have me instructions, and asked me to attend her undergraduate ecology course and subjected me to an exam. I passed and then worked together on a design for the theses which was about study the impact of water pollution in Zarqa River Basin on the ecology of the area by using frogs as an indicator. I had to collect monthly water samples from 6 sampling sites along the river course (Amman to King Talal Reservoir), collect frogs tadpoles and put them under conditions of clean water and pollution water to study patterns of growth and counting the numbers of frogs in study area, mainly by running after them!

It was marvelous and enriching and I passed my committee verdict in 1995 with a great passion for the profession I am looking forward to. At that time I was teaching in the University and working at the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN). We were a crop of youth who worked in Dana and Mujib reserves to assess the ecology and develop management plans there. We walked, climbed, camped, fell down and enjoyed areas that were not studied before. At the end of my short-term contract, I was the only one that did not get a full time contract. Until now this is an enigma to me. I have never confronted the decision makers and have no explanation after 16 years.

I stayed unemployed for 8 months but benefited from my journalism part time activity by working for the newly established Al Arab Al yawm daily but I had to enter the environment sector. I did this in 1998 through Aqaba where I worked for two years as an environmental monitoring specialist in a World Bank project. I managed to save some money to help in getting married, then went back to Amman in 2000 with the great help of Dr Hatough-Bouran who was establishing the national committee for IUCN (World Conservation Union) that has hosted the world conservation congress in 2000 gathering 3,000 experts from around the world for one week in Jordan.

I continued my diversified career then, working in 8 different projects in 6 organizations. During the same time I continued writing a daily article in Addustour since 2000 and in many other media outlets having the double career I hoped for: environment and journalism.

So much for being the next Kenny Dlaglish, but I am happy of all I did. It was one accidental moment of inspiration that changed my course. Stay alert, this can happen to you at anytime.

Posted in Personal | 2 Comments

Potential for a Green Economy in Jordan

Jordan is currently undergoing a process of deep political and economic change. For all people with positive thinking there is a hope that this transformation with result in a sustainable and effective system of economic and political governance. One of the major opportunities that are around the corner is the potential that Jordan may be able to make a paradigm shift towards green economy.

UNEP defines a green economy as one that results in “improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities” (UNEP 2011). A green economy aims to be low-carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive. Growth in income and job generation is driven by both the private and public sectors.  This growth, however, is within a framework of reducing pollution, improving energy efficiency and preserving biodiversity through preventing damage to existing ecosystems. Such investments are supported through targeted public expenditures, underpinned, where needed, by policy reform and regulatory changes.  Natural capital is considered a keystone in development, a critical asset to be used for public benefit.  This is seen most strongly in poor, less developed and more rural areas, where livelihoods and security of family are largely dependent on nature.

 The Green Economy is one of the major pillars of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio + 20) which will be held in Brazil 20-22 June 2012. It has been also one of the most effective tools used by many global governments to inject stimulus financial support for their own economies after the 2008 global economic crises. It is a concept that is taking shape, content and influencing global policy agenda.

Jordan has shown interest at the policy level for transition to green economy since 2010. The Ministry of Environment has commissioned UNEP to produce a Green Economy Scoping Study (GESS) that will act as a roadmap for greening the Jordanian economy and identification of highest potential sector the creation of jobs, fighting poverty and enhancement of resource use in Jordan. The GESS released and endorsed at the end of July 2011. The study indicates that investments in environmental conservation could generate a minimum of 50,000 jobs, and over JD 1.3 billion in revenues over a period of 10 years. In order to achieve such benefits, this study recommends an integrated and coordinated approach that involves all sections of the government for the benefit of the nation, starting with the production and adoption of the Green Economy Policy Paper.

The study provides challenges and opportunities in several sectors including energy, transport, water, waste, organic and regenerative farming and tourism. Following are glimpses of opportunities perceived

In the energy sector investment in energy efficiency in industry, which is estimated around 195 million JD annually for the coming 10 years, can save the nation one-fifth of its energy usage over the next 12 years. Methods to promote energy conservation include, for example, taxing excessive energy use, improved insulation and energy efficiency of homes, and incentivising the use of lower voltage bulbs and devices. Moreover, the national energy strategy is set to generate approximately 3,000 new jobs for the installation, maintenance and running if renewable energy facilities by 2020.

In the transport sector promoting cleaner fuel vehicles use can help save JD 60 per vehicle annually, and even more as gasoline prices rise further, which translates to JD 44 million per year saved across the nation. To support green transport in Jordan, the government could consider revising current customs policies on clean fuel vehicles, and streamlining public transportation with interchangeable tariffs and routes that best serve employment areas.

In the water sector the study provides some recommendations for the enhancement of economic productivity in water management including water demand management, estimation of value added per cubic meter of water in each economic sector and rehabilitation of wetlands.

In the waste sector recycling benefits are varied but energy savings have been shown to range from 24 to 95 per cent, and air pollution savings from 20 to 95 per cent. In the agriculture sector the study states that organic farming has the potential to significantly improve agricultural production and diminish associated costs in a number of ways. Among them is the fact that organic farming utilizes less water than conventional farming and replenishes the soil with vital nutrients, as opposed to simply depleting the soil and aggravating the aridity phenomena. Also, organic farming relies on water saving techniques that can increase the size of the irrigated land by a ratio of 6 in Jordan.

In addition, if 5 per cent of the total agricultural land is used as organic farmland, then this will lead to approximately JD 111 million in investments, 40.6 dunums in total land used and the creation of 1,700 jobs. Because green agriculture has more value added and requires higher skilled workers than traditional agriculture, where 21.6 per cent of all workers are non-Jordanian, new jobs would most likely be filled by Jordanian workers, as they pay more.

In the tourism sector the study estimates that if 5 per cent of all tourists used sustainable infrastructure, then approximately 3,900 jobs could be created annually based on past expenditure and employment ratios.

The roadmap is clear. We need the political willingness to move the necessary steps.

Posted in Economic policies, Green Economy, Sustainable business, Uncategorized | 6 Comments