On April 7th 2015, EcoPeace represented the civil society with a panel under “Activism on Environmental Issues” in the NEA Environment, Science, Technology and Health Officers Workshop. Mr Abdul Rahman Sultan, Assistant Director and Sharhabil Bin Hassneh EcoPark Manager spoke about the organizations efforts in raising communities’ awareness of environmental issues, and its relationship with other civil society organizations and local governments, he also introduced the EcoPeace model of working to the well-attended workshop.
Mr Sultan began by introducing the organization’s unique trilateral structure, so that sustainable regional development and peace can be promoted with local support. The Jordan River Rehabilitation Project was used as an example of this work. The need for trans-boundary efforts to restore this culturally and ecologically important waterway was highlighted, to ensure that the work of one party is not undone by the actions of their neighbours. By taking a “top-down” approach in research, lobbying and advocacy, in partnership with a “bottom-up” approach in community and grass-roots work, EcoPeace Middle East has been successful in gaining a large amount of buy-in to advance political will in removing pollution from, and returning water to, the Jordan River.
The rehabilitation of the Jordan River will still not fully restore the River, but it will help to prevent the complete collapse of the ecosystem. One of the key changes that will need to be made is in agricultural practices. Farmers currently pay nothing for the first 150,000m3 of water they pump from their private wells in Jordan, however over 620,000 tonnes of fruits and vegetables are exported each year, meaning water is exported at an artificially low price. EcoPeace have worked with farming communities to trial water-efficient irrigation technologies, and change the crops that are being grown, since 70% of agricultural water use is on water-intensive crops. Some economically sound changes to water use in farming practices could maintain the water supplies for groundwater.
Mr Sultan continued to explain how important the Jordan River is on the international scale, with a resolution in the US senate supporting the cooperation of Israel, Palestine and Jordan in halting the degradation of the Jordan River and Dead Sea. The Covenant for the Jordan River has also been signed by many religious leaders in the recognition of the need for rehabilitation, so even though the struggle seems uphill, there is much support for the action that is being taken.
This post is contributed by EcoPeace’s Intern Helen Wilkinson at the Amman Office