The Health and Environment Committee of the Jordanian Lower House of Parliament held a hearing on Monday, May 14th concerning the proposal of Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) to create a Jordanian National Park at Bakoura. FoEME called for the meeting to discuss the organization’s long-time plans for the area, currently a military-controlled region of the Jordan River Valley located along the border of Jordan and Israel. In response, the Committee Chair, H. E. Moutassam Al-Awamleh, requested the presence of the Minister of Water and Irrigation, H. E. Mohammad Al-Najar, the Minister of Environment, H. E. Yaseen Al-Khayat, and the Minister of Tourism, H. E. Naif Al-Fayez. Committee Member H. E. Bassam Al-Omari was also in attendance, along with the former and acting mayors of Muaz bin Jabal.
FoEME Chairman and Jordanian Director Eng. Munqeth Mehyar presented the cultural, historical, and environmental importance of Bakoura and outlined FoEME’s plans for the creation of a Jordanian National Park. Through FoEME’s management, Bakoura would become a protected area where visitors could enjoy the natural beauty of the Lower Jordan River and spectacular surrounding landscape. FoEME’s plans also include developing infrastructure through smaller projects such as creating a museum and information center from the hydroelectric power plant and converting the old workers houses into eco lodges. In all, the project has the potential to bring 200 jobs to the area of North Shuneh, which has estimated unemployment rates of 40%.
FoEME representatives responded to questions posed by the government officials regarding the proposed park. H.E. Naif Al-Fayez expressed his support for the project because of its potential to improve Bakoura and surrounding area. Al-Fayez emphasized the importance of decreasing unemployment and developing the region. H. E. Bassam Al-Omari spoke on behalf of FoEME about his experiences touring the Lower Jordan River with the organization, saying that he believes that FoEME has done an excellent job in developing areas of the Jordan Valley. He encouraged the ministers to visit the Sharhabil ben Hassneh EcoPark in order to observe a sustainable development project that FoEME has already embarked on. Ali Al-Delky, the former mayor of Muaz bin Jabal, also spoke powerfully in support of FoEME, calling for the government of Jordan to work cooperatively to ensure that Jordanians benefit from the land in a sustainable way.
The hearing was a follow-up to a tour that FoEME led for the Health and Environment Committee of the Lower House of Parliament last month. Moving forward, FoEME has agreed to provide the Ministries and Parliament with a feasibility study conducted in 2008 concerning Bakoura. FoEME will also meet more extensively with the Minister of Water to discuss developing plans. The hearing was an important step toward building support in the government for a Jordanian National Park in Bakoura and contributes to FoEME’s overall goal of rehabilitating the Lower Jordan River.
This post was contributed by Emily Hylton, FoEME Jordan River Rehabilitation Project Assistant based in our Amman office.