Energy Perspectives for Jordan

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is an emerging and stable economy in the Middle East. Jordan has almost no indigenous energy resources as domestic natural gas covers merely 3% of the Kingdom’s energy needs. The country is dependent on oil imports from neighbouring countries to meet its energy requirements. Energy import costs create a financial burden on the national economy and Jordan had to spend almost 20% of its GDP on the purchase of energy in 2008.

In Jordan, electricity is mainly generated by burning imported natural gas and oil. The price of electricity for Jordanians is dependent on price of oil in the world market, and this has been responsible for the continuous increase in electricity cost due to volatile oil prices in recent years. Due to fast economic growth, rapid industrial development and increasing population, energy demand is expected to increase by at least 50 percent over the next 20 years.

Therefore, the provision of reliable and cheap energy supply will play a vital role in Jordan’s economic growth. Electricity demand is growing rapidly, and the Jordanian government has been seeking ways to attract foreign investment to fund additional capacity. In 2008, the demand for electricity in Jordan was 2260 MW, which is expected to rise to 5770 MW by 2020.

In 2007, the Government unveiled an Energy Master Plan for the development of the energy sector requiring an investment of more than $3 billion during 2007 – 2020. Some ambitious objectives were fixed: heating half of the required hot water on solar energy by the year 2020; increasing energy efficiency and savings by 20% by the year 2020, while 7% of the energy mix should originate from renewable sources by 2015, and should rise to 10% by 2020. 

Concerted efforts are underway to remove barriers to exploitation of renewable energy, particularly wind, solar and biomass. There has been significant progress in the implementation of sustainable energy systems in the last few years to the active support from the government and increasing awareness among the local population.

With high population growth rate, increase in industrial and commercial activities, high cost of imported energy fuels and higher GHGs emissions, supply of cheap and clean energy resources has become a challenge for the Government. Consequently, the need for implementing energy efficiency measures and exploring renewable energy technologies has emerged as a national priority.  In the recent past, Jordan has witnessed a surge in initiatives to generate power from renewable resources with financial and technical backing from the government, international agencies and foreign donors. 

The best prospects for electricity generation in Jordan are as Independent Power Producers (IPPs).  This creates tremendous opportunities for foreign investors interested in investing in electricity generation ventures. Keeping in view the renewed interest in renewable energy, there is a huge potential for international technology companies to enter the Jordan market.  There is very good demand for wind energy equipments, solar power units and waste-to-energy systems which can be capitalized by technology providers and investment groups.

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Waste-to-Energy in Jordan: Potential and Challenges

landfill-jordanEffective sustainable solid waste management is of great importance both for people’s health and for environmental protection. In Jordan, insufficient financial resources, growing population, rapid urbanization, inadequate management and lacking of technical skills represent a serious environmental challenge confronting local government. At the same time, energy remains Jordan’s top challenge for development. The energy needs to be produced in a sustainable way, preferably from renewable sources which have a minimum environmental impact. To face the future problems in waste management, as well as securing the demand of renewable energy, it is necessary to reuse the wasted resources in energy production.

Jordan has definitely acknowledged that making affordable energy solutions available is critical to support industries, investment, and attain sustainable growth. One option is to use solid waste to generate electricity in centralized plants. Waste-to-energy has been recognized as an effective approach to improve recycling rates, reduce the dependence on fossil fuels, reduce the amount of materials sent to landfills and to avoid pollution.

Waste-to-Energy Potential

According to recent statistics, Jordan population stands at around 9.5 million. The estimated municipal waste generated according to the last five years average production is around 3,086,075 ton/year. This huge amount of waste generated is not only a burden, but a potential resource for use in energy production. Considering the country average waste composition 40% is organic waste e.g. avoidable and unavoidable food waste (1,200,000 ton), 10 % are recyclable e.g. paper, plastic, glass, ferrous metals and aluminum (300,000 ton) and 50% are suitable for incineration e.g. garden and park waste, wood and textiles (1,500,000 ton) with high calorific value and energy potential (8.1 MJ/Kg) that is capable to produce electricity 340 kWh/ton waste. The high organic waste is suitable for methane gas capture technologies which is estimated at 170 m3/ton waste.

Technology Options

Nowadays, there are many technologies available which makes it possible to utilize these energy potentials. The major alternatives conventional technologies for large scale waste management are incineration, landfilling and anaerobic digestion. These technologies are affordable, economical visible and associated with minimum environmental impact. The production of electricity is combined with greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, according to the current energy situation (90% of the country energy produced from fossil fuel), the country emission factor is around 819 CO2-eq/kWh. However, the use of waste to energy solutions is considered to be a clean and definitely the amount of GHG emitted is a lot less than the gases generated by ordinary practices (open dumping and unsanitary landfills).

Construction of an incineration plant for electricity production is often a profitable system even though the installation cost is high since production of electricity often leads to a large economic gain. Landfill gas utilization avoids the release of untreated landfill gases into the atmosphere, and produces electricity to sell commercially in an environmental friendly manner. However, landfilling is associated with methane production. Methane is a potent GHG, contributing 21 times more to global warming than carbon dioxide.

Anaerobic digestion technology is another option. Anaerobic digestion not only decrease GHGs emission but also it is the best technology for treatment of high organic waste through converting the biodegradable fraction of the waste into high-quality renewable calorific gas. Currently, with the growing use of anaerobic technology for treating waste and wastewater, it is expected to become more economically competitive because of its enormous advantages e.g. reduction of pathogens, deactivation of weed seeds and production of sanitized compost.


Sorting at the place of generation and recycling e.g. paper, plastic, glass and metals needed to be practiced at the country level or at least where these technologies implemented. Incinerated waste containing plastics (not sorted) releases carbon dioxide, toxic substances and heavy metals to the atmosphere and contributes thereby to climate change and to global warming.

Challenges to Overcome

Waste-to-energy technologies offer enormous potentials as a renewable energy sources and to mitigate climate change in Joran. However, these technologies pose many challenges to the country and discussion makers. Currently, the waste sector is administrated by the government. Poor regulation and insufficient financial resources are limiting the available options toward adapting these new technologies. Private investments and collaboration with the private sector is the key solution in this regard.

Biomass Energy in Middle East

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region offers almost 45 percent of the world’s total energy potential from all renewable sources that can generate more than three times the world’s total power demand. MENA region has abundant biomass energy resources which have remained unexplored to a great extent. According to conservative estimates, the potential of biomass energy in the Euro-Mediterranean region is about 400TWh per year. Around the region, pollution of the air and water from municipal, industrial and agricultural operations continues to grow.  The technological advancements in the biomass energy industry, coupled with the tremendous regional potential, promises to usher in a new era of energy as well as environmental security for the region.

The major biomass producing countries are Egypt, Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Jordan. Traditionally, biomass energy has been widely used in rural areas for domestic purposes in the MENA region, especially in Egypt, Yemen and Jordan. Since most of the region is arid or semi-arid, the biomass energy potential is mainly contributed by municipal solid wastes, agricultural residues and industrial wastes.

Municipal solid wastes represent the best source of biomass in Middle East countries. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Kuwait rank in the top-ten worldwide in terms of per capita solid waste generation. The gross urban waste generation quantity from Middle East countries is estimated at more than 150 million tons annually. Food waste is the third-largest component of generated waste by weight which mostly ends up rotting in landfill and releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The mushrooming of hotels, restaurants, fast-food joints and cafeterias in the region has resulted in the generation of huge quantities of food wastes.

In Middle East countries, huge quantity of sewage sludge is produced on daily basis which presents a serious problem due to its high treatment costs and risk to environment and human health. On an average, the rate of wastewater generation is 80-200 litres per person each day and sewage output is rising by as much as 25 percent every year. According to conservative estimates, sewage generation in the Dubai is atleast 500,000 m3 per day.

The food processing industry in MENA produces a large number of organic residues and by-products that can be used as biomass energy sources. In recent decades, the fast-growing food and beverage processing industry has remarkably increased in importance in major countries of the region. Since the early 1990s, the increased agricultural output stimulated an increase in fruit and vegetable canning as well as juice, beverage, and oil processing in countries like Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.

The MENA countries have strong animal population. The livestock sector, in particular sheep, goats and camels, plays an important role in the national economy of respective countries. Many millions of live ruminants are imported each year from around the world. In addition, the region has witnessed very rapid growth in the poultry sector. The biogas potential of animal manure can be harnessed both at small- and community-scale.

The Middle East region is well-poised for biomass energy development, with its rich biomass resources in the form of municipal solid waste, crop residues and agro-industrial waste. The implementation of advanced biomass conversion technologies as a method for safe disposal of solid and liquid biomass wastes, and as an attractive option to generate heat, power and fuels, can greatly reduce environmental impacts of a wide array of biomass wastes. 


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Sustainability Reporting in the Middle East

The concept of sustainability centers on a balance of society, economy and environment for current and future health. Responsible resource management in all three areas ensures that future generations will have the resources they need to survive and thrive. One way that companies can consider sustainability and social responsibility is by focusing on the triple bottom line, which is an expanded baseline for measuring financial, social and environmental performance. It is also referred to as “People, Planet and Profit.”

The advantages enjoyed by an organisation that implements sustainable management include higher efficiency and competitiveness, increased financial returns and reduced risk for shareholders, attraction and retention of employees, stronger community relations, enhanced brand value and reputation, and improved customer sales and loyalty by responding to market needs (e.g.: including environmentally conscious consumers in your target market by providing environmentally or socially superior products to your competitors).

One certain way to prove that business is serious about doing “what’s right” is to publish a sustainability report. It shows the global community that it is serious about keeping its commitments and holding itself to a higher standard. In a world increasingly dominated by rankings and ratings, writing these reports has never been so critical; reading them has never been so revealing. Reporting, transparency, and accountability are signature issues. They illustrate integrity and build trust. The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) has pioneered the development of the world’s most widely used sustainability reporting framework and is committed to its continuous improvement and application worldwide.

Sustainability Reporting in the Middle East

There are some encouraging signs that sustainability reporting is beginning to take root in Middle East business landscape. In Jordan, for example, Aramex was the first company to issue a GRI checked report covering everything from staff training and salaries to promoting road safety and reducing poverty. The Jordan River Foundation became the first NGO in the region to produce a GRI checked report, thus spearheading the movement for NGOs to issue sustainability reports. NGOs that can show they’re accountable and transparent are more attractive to donors, and are more viable partners for corporations and government.

The Arab Bank recently issued its annual sustainability report for the third consecutive year, which was evaluated at a level ‘A’ by the GRI, the highest evaluation level they grant, thereby exceeding the Bank’s previous reports. The report focuses in detail on the internal programs adopted by the Bank, such as the integration of certain environmental and social criteria in the project financing process, in addition to the implementation of a number of initiatives that aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and also increase internal awareness levels of the sustainability concept.

Also covered in the report are Arab Bank’s social contributions which exceed financial support to include services that allow customers to donate to a number of non-profit organizations, in addition to the participation of the Bank’s employees in volunteering activities and capacity building programs for non-profit organizations to help them maintain their operations.

Another notable example is that of Zain Group, the leading telecommunications provider in eight countries across the Middle East and Africa, which recently published its second sustainability report entitled "Dedicated to the Promise of a Wonderful World". The report was prepared utilizing the GRI G3.1 guidelines and the principles of materiality, inclusivity and responsiveness taken from the AA 1000 Accountability Principles Standard. Focus was given to workers’ rights, human rights, the environment, ethics and governance, community involvement, supplier relation and gender disparity.

The United Arab Emirates is also keeping abreast of the sustainability reporting trend. The Centre for Responsible Business, which was formed in 2004, is the longest standing center promoting corporate responsibility in the UAE. The Centre not only assists Dubai Chamber members to apply responsible business practices that enhance performance and competitiveness but also offers a variety of educational, professional training and consulting services that are designed to build individual companies’ capacity to implement broad CSR programmes including business ethics, sustainability reporting and corporate governance.

In 2008, the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD) and the Executive Council of Abu Dhabi set up the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Group (ADSG), a membership-based organisation whose mission is to promote sustainability management in Abu Dhabi by providing policy support, learning and knowledge sharing opportunities for government, private companies and non profit organisations in a spirit of cooperation and open dialogue.

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#InspireMENA Story 2: Ruba Al-Zu’bi – Inspiring Green Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship

ruba-alzubiRuba Al-Zu’bi is a very well-known sustainable development policy and planning expert, and a true inspiration for youngsters in Jordan and beyond. Currently she is the CEO of EDAMA, a Jordanian business association that seeks innovative solutions to advance the energy, water and environment sectors. Ruba Al-Zu’bi is Global Resolutions' Jordan Ambassador and a Plus Social Good Connector promoting SDGs and success stories around sustainability in the MENA region.

She is also a founding member of the Jordan Green Building Council, and has facilitated its organizational establishment and strategic planning process. Ruba led the Clean Technology Sector Development at USAID Jordan Competitiveness Program with focus on enhancing private sector’s competitiveness, creating jobs and increasing exports in the clean energy, solid waste management and water resources management clusters. She is associated with EcoMENA as a mentor, and has provided tremendous support to the organization in raising environmental awareness, mobilizing youth and disseminating knowledge. She was selected as Jordan’s Eisenhower Fellow for 2012 fellowship through which she investigated green economy, green buildings and sustainability policy in the US; and was named as 2012 Ward Wheelock Fellow for her outstanding contributions to her community. 

Here she talks to our collaborative partner Impact Squared about her educational background, professional achievements, strategic thinking and visionary approach.

Impact Squared: Can you tell me a little bit about your background and what you do? 
Ruba Al-Zu’bi: I was originally trained as an environmental engineer. When I was studying to become an engineer, I found that the training was disconnected from, rather than supportive of Jordanian society and development. I wanted to make that connection. When Jordan established the Ministry of the Environment in 2004, I was involved in the development of the ministry, updating policies and building its capacity. I was really supported by a minister who believed in empowering women. I continued my education and earned a degree in Institutional Change Management to be able to contribute to public sector reform in Jordan. Right now, I am the CEO of EDAMA, a nonprofit organization that activates the private sector to improve green technology and a green economy in Jordan.

Impact Squared: What specific challenges or issue areas are you driven to work on?
Ruba Al-Zu’bi: A big issue facing the world today is sustainability mainstreaming, which is the idea of bringing ideas and practices of sustainability to different sectors and development decisions. There are tradeoffs that we always need to make. In developing countries, it’s not always possible to put sustainability at the top of the priority list, it’s important to keep the costs of compromise and the tradeoffs in mind throughout the decision-making processes. 

I also think that equal opportunity, job development and bridging education with job opportunities is another important issue. Currently, there is not a lot of green innovation because there’s a lack of understanding of market needs and not a lot of resources to support that. It’s important to support green entrepreneurs to innovate on sustainability. The vision I try to keep in front of me includes these things. Whenever I have the chance to speak, I always integrate these issues and concepts to mobilize efforts for global support and to create action on a larger scene.

Impact Squared: What motivated you to pursue your career and what drives you to continue?
Ruba Al-Zu’bi: I’ve worked in public, private, government, and international donor-based organizations. I really want to be where I can add value and make an impact. Right now, working at a nonprofit organization is challenging because there’s a lack of resources and a need for financial sustainability, but it’s also really important to be closer to the general public because that’s where there is a greater need. At EDAMA, there’s an added advantage of working with the private sector. I’m able to link businesses with the community, which is a promising area in Jordan. The more we think about sustainable energy that can be provided to everyone, especially in light of the influx of Syrian refugees, the more we can alleviate pressure on both the economy and natural resources. 

Impact Squared: How do you approach leadership? What skills or values or are important in leadership?

Ruba Al-Zu’bi: I recently took my team out for brunch. They told me that they wake up happy and feel empowered and appreciated. They feel like they have the space to create, innovate and make decisions, rather than just implementing other people’s ideas, which matters a lot in a leading a nonprofit organization.  As a leader, creating a small community for your team is important for them to create a community in their work around a cause. If you don’t succeed at creating the internal community, you can’t have an impact on the larger community. 

As a young leader, Ruba Al-Zu'bi inspires lots of youngsters in Jordan

As a young leader, Ruba Al-Zu'bi inspires lots of youngsters in Jordan

I always say I wish I had a mentor in an earlier stage of my life – it wasn’t common in Jordan when I was younger. I have a couple of mentors now for myself and I serve as one for younger people. I think relationships like this are very important. It’s important for a mentor to understand how to give mentees support without influencing decisions. I like to help people find their way; I wish I had someone help me do that. Also, family support and friend support contributes to leadership. The more we’re comfortable in our personal lives, the more we can give professionally to our communities. I’m lucky to have that in my life.

I was a young leader, leading before age 30, which had advantages and disadvantages. If you’re not ready or mature enough, it can backfire on your career and how people see young leaders in general. So, it’s important to self-reflect, self-evaluate and to have the ability to see your own growth and skills. Keep learning about those things to be an effective leader. I try to explain that to the younger generation, as they rush, sometimes trying to climb the ladder too quickly. Maturity takes time.

Impact Squared: What values drive the ways you make decisions as a leader and in general?
Ruba Al-Zu’bi: In general, I try to implement my social and environmental values. I value social justice, equal opportunities, and gender equity, which is really what’s behind everything happening in the Arab world and Arab Spring. If we, as leaders, don’t care, integrate, and mainstream these values in our day-to-day life and then professionally, they can’t be implemented on the ground, cascading.  


Note: The interview is being republished with the kind permission of our collaborative partner Impact Squared. The unedited interview can be read here 

Countering Water Scarcity in Jordan

Water scarcity is a reality in Jordan, as the country is counted among the world’s most arid countries. The current per capita water supply in Jordan is 200m3 per year which is almost one-third of the global average. To make matters worse, it is projected that per capita water availability will decline to measly 90m3 by the year 2025. Thus, it is of paramount importance to augment water supply in addition to sustainable use of available water resources.

Augmenting Water Supply

There are couple of options to increase alternative water supply sources in Jordan – desalination of seawater and recycling of wastewater. Desalination can provide a safe drinking water to areas facing severe water scarcity, and may also help in resolving the conflict between urban and agricultural water requirement needs by providing a new independent water source.

The other way to counter water scarcity in Jordan is by recycling and reuse of municipal wastewater which is an attractive method in terms of water savings. Infact, the reuse of the treated wastewater in Jordan has reached one of the highest levels in the world. The treated wastewater flow in the country is returned to the Search River and the King Talal dam, where it is mixed with the surface flow and used in the pressurized irrigation distribution system in the Jordan valley.

Another cheap and natural option for wastewater reuse is the construction of wetlands, and surface water reservoirs, which are water storage facilities that are able to collect and hold rain water for later use during dry seasons for irrigation or even for fish farming purposes. To prevent water loss by evaporation, reservoirs should be covered in a specific way to allow air to enter but with minimum evaporation rate. Another option is to install floating solar panels above the reservoir which will not only reduce the evaporation rate but also produce clean energy.

However, technology-based solutions are also raising several environmental and health concerns. Seawater desalination and wastewater treatment are like large-scale industrial projects which are capital-intensive, energy-intensive and generate waste in one form or the other. The desalination process may be detrimental to the marine ecological system as it increases the salinity of seawater.

Similarly, irrigation using recycled municipal wastewater is causing public health concerns. For example, directly consumed vegetables and fruits are excluded from allowable crops. Further studies should be conducted so as to address health issues that might arise from municipal wastewater usage. Effluent irrigation standards should be broadened to encompass a wider range of pathogens, and appropriate public health guidelines need to be established for wastewater irrigation taking into consideration the elimination of steroids.

New Trends

New intervention is needed to satisfy local irrigation demands; irrigation water for agriculture makes up the largest part of total average water used, which accounted for 64% during 2010. The main period of water stress is during summer due to high irrigation demand, and there is therefore a conflict arising between the supply of water for urban use and agricultural consumption. There has to be a proper combination between improvement of irrigation methods and selection of crop types. Application of updated water techniques, such as micro-sprinkling, drip irrigation and nocturnal, can reduce water loss and improve irrigation efficiency. Infrastructure improvement is also necessary to improving efficiency and reducing water loss.

Crop substitution is another interesting method to increase water efficiency by growing new crop types that tolerate saline, brackish, and low irrigation requirements. Such approach is not only economically viable, but also is socially beneficial and viable to mankind in an arid ecosystem. Mulching system is also highly recommended to reduce evaporative loss of soil moisture and improve microbial activities and nutrient availability. Farmers should use organic manure, instead of chemical fertilizers, to increase quality of water and reduce risk of groundwater contamination and agricultural run-offs.

The industrial sector uses about 5 percent of water resources in Jordan, while releasing harmful substances to the environment (including water). Industries have to put together a water management plan to reduce water intake and control water pollution. For instance, the establishment of a local wastewater treatment plant within a hotel for irrigation purposes is a good solution. Traditional solutions, like Qanats, Mawasi and fog harvesting, can also be a good tool in fighting water scarcity in arid areas.

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Destruction of the Dead Sea

Dead Sea is the lowest point on the planet and one of the most unique environments around the world. It lies on the borders of Jordan, the West Bank and Israel. Known for its high-density waters and mineral rich soils, the Dead Sea is visited by a large number of tourists from all over the world. Its soils contain minerals such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, and salt.These minerals are used in cosmetics, chemical products such as industrial salts and are even used in table salts for home use.

State of the Affairs

The once mineral-rich Dead Sea has shrunk to the size of a small and pitiful pond. Water levels have been dropping at a rate of 1 meter per annum. Currently it lies 1,300 feet below sea level and if the rate of decline continues it will reach 1,800 feet below sea level before the end of the century. This sharp decline is due to the over-exploitation of its minerals, the use of its water for desalination, and the large increase in agriculture in both Jordan and Israel.

Many environmental casualties have been associated with the rapid retreat in the shoreline of the Dead Sea. An example is the emergence of sinkholes. Many residential areas and roads around the Dead Sea have been destroyed because of sinkholes. Sinkholes are natural depressions in the Earth’s surface caused by the chemical dissolution of nutrients in the soil.These sinkholes endanger the livesof locals and tourists alike.

In an attempt to save the Dead Sea, the governments of Jordan and Israel plan to implement a project called the “Red to Dead Water Conveyance Plan” which involves building of a pipeline that connects both the Red and the Dead Sea and pumping around two thousand million cubic meters (mcm) of water per year into the latter which is equivalent to the water produced by 60 desalination plants in a day. However, many scientists are skeptical of this project due to the many problems that would arise including:

  1. The different densities and minerals in the waters would cause algal blooms that would be detrimental to the environment while also causing the water to turn red/green.
  2. Large water withdrawal from the Red Sea would have a detrimental effect on the coral reefs, sea level, and nutrient levels.
  3. The pipeline carrying the water from the Red to the Dead Sea might leak salt water into groundwater reserves along its route thereby increasing salinity in both the groundwater and the surrounding soil.

On the basis of these apprehensions it seems that this project would do little to help rectify the problem and might even add to it. An alternative way to save the Dead Sea would be to rehabilitate the Jordan River. As it stands today, only 50 mcm of water from the Jordan River reaches the Dead Sea as opposed to 1.3 billion cubic meters in 1950.

The Jordan River is a shadow of what it once was. The river acts as the main water source for Jordan, Israel, and the West Bank. As a result, 90% of the fresh water that replenishes it is diverted to agriculture.  Another problem facing it is pollution from agricultural and wastewater run-offs. About 50% of the agricultural run-offs from the surrounding areas are dumped into the river which has caused its water levels to drop dramatically.

Action Plan

Unfortunately, with limited sources of water, it will be difficult to ask concerned governments to stop relying heavily on the Jordan River. Some of the actions that governments may initative include:

  1. Improve irrigation systems and abandon the traditional systems that waste more than 25% of the water that is used.
  2. Renovate pipe systems in cities to reduce the number of leaks from the pipelines and to supply clean drinking tap water for the public.
  3. Plant local plants, which do not require much water and refrain from planting water intensive plants (e.g. rice).
  4. Harvest rainwater by manufacturing storage Pillars or tanks.

The Dead Sea has a geological importance in the region, and has many important aspects that make it significant. It is the saltiest and most mineral rich water body in the world. It also has a biological importance as it is home to many unique biological bacteria that are not present anywhere else on Earth. Regenerating the Jordan River, less water desalination, and improving water management practices will help regenerate the Dead Sea and help maintain this unique and important environment.

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Sustainable Agriculture: Perspectives for Jordan Valley

agriculture-palestineSustainable agriculture development is one of the most important pillars of the EcoPeace Middle East's Jordan Valley Master Plan as it provides livelihood and prosperity for all the people in the valley. The strategic agricultural objective for the study area is improving water use and irrigation efficiencies and economic outputs per unit of water used, and meanwhile stabilize, or even reduce the total water demands for the agricultural sector in the Jordan Valley. This will require adequate tariff policies on water used for irrigation, including enforcement, to stimulate more efficient use of water through for instance greenhouse drip irrigation. These are challenges specifically relevant for Jordan and Palestine.

Greenhouses are a very effective manner to improve water efficiencies and economic outputs in the agricultural sector, using greenhouses reduce the production related risks, provide for better quality crops and provide wider options for crop diversification. Finally, evapotranspiration from greenhouses is substantially less than from open field agriculture (and it does not cause soil salinity). However, greenhouses decrease open spaces, with negative visual impacts to rural landscapes and to wildlife corridors. Hence greenhouse development needs to be carefully planned and many farmers would require adequate and reliable micro-credits in order to invest in greenhouses.

Drip irrigation is another effective manner to improve water efficiencies in the open fields. The challenge is to set up sustainable drip irrigation systems in the Jordan Valley, including appropriate operations and maintenance and monitoring systems. This requires also financial facilities for farmers to invest, standardization of designs and manufacturing and provision of technical support services.

A related challenge is to maximize the reuse of treated wastewater, efficient use of pesticides and fertilizers, introduction or expansion of growing high yield crops, and improving extension services and post harvesting support to the farmers to enable them to create higher economic returns.

Pollution and mismanagement has severely damaged the Jordan River

Pollution and mismanagement has severely damaged the Jordan River

Another major challenge is to address the negative environmental impacts associated with the fish farms. These farms consume substantial amounts of water, due to high evaporation rates, which may be as much as 1-2 meter of water per year. In addition the ponds are flushed once or twice per year, releasing water into the Jordan River, which is polluted with excrements from the fishes, and anti-biotic medications that have to be added to the fish ponds. Due to the evaporation, the effluent is usually brackish as well. Consequently, discharging this wastewater into the environment has substantial impacts to surface water and groundwater quality.

Mitigating these impacts require investments in wastewater treatment facilities, and converting the process to a closed system. Without resolving these issues the future of this industry in the valley must be in doubt, despite any ecological benefits that the fish farms present for bird migration and associated tourism related to bird watching. The master plan sees the need to ensure that those communities relying currently on the fish ponds as their main source of income enjoy stability and that they be supported in the effort to move to closed systems.

A related challenge will be to strengthen the Extension Services for the farmers in the Jordan Valley. These services might be provided through the existing water user associations. In terms of rural economics, an important challenge is to improve the post-harvesting and marketing potentials of the farmers in the Jordan Valley, including setting up product organizations, better information about markets (nationally and internationally) and related product requirements and creating better access to export markets, with particular focus on eco-friendly and sustainable production techniques, regional labeling and fair-trade related markets.

Note: This is the third article in our special series on 'Regional Integrated NGO Master Plan for the Jordan Valley.

Preserving Biodiversity in Jordan

Jordan is situated at the center of unique biota, representing the biodiversity of dry lands. The natural ecosystems in Jordan support human activities in agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry, tourism, traditional and pharmaceutical health products, traditional medicine and many others. These ecosystems are also important for their intrinsic value, and for protection of overall environmental quality.

The Levant states in general, and Jordan in particular, went through changes during the past two centuries from various anthropogenic activities. These changes are threatening the natural ecosystems, which have been destroyed to make way for agricultural, industrial, or housing developments. Species biodiversity have been severely affected, with many facing extinction. Rare and endemic plant and animals are endangered.

Biodiversity in Jordan

Despite its relatively small size, Jordan is highly rich in biodiversity. The country is divided into four different bio-geographical zones – the Mediterranean, Irano -Turanian, saharo-Arabian and Sudania. These zones are key elements in supporting biodiversity, containing three major ecosystems – terrestrial, marine, and wetland.

Biodiversity in Jordan has been seriously threatened in recent years. Natural areas and wildlife has been severely affected due to rapid urban growth resulting from population growth, large-scale migration and rapid industrial expansion has led to depletion of natural ecosystems.  Agriculture, animal-grazing, construction and other human activities has led to soil erosion, desertification and fragmentation of the land and reduction or extinction of wildlife. Furthermore, the increasing stress on limited water supplies has led to overexploitation of water resources and a decline in its quality and general decline in biological systems.

The agricultural expansion has led to ecological changes in two ways: decrease in population of some species due to alteration of their natural habitat, and over-exploitation of water resources. For some species, the lack of water has forced the animals to move or die, although for others it has increased their population. Rampant use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers has contaminated soil and water resources while reckless use of heavy agricultural machinery on marginal arid lands has encouraged soil erosion.

Overgrazing is widely recognized as harmful to ecosystems as it may lead to desertification, which increases atmospheric dust; such dust creates a health problem for both humans and wildlife. Furthermore, overgrazing is harmful for soil microorganisms on which the health of the entire ecosystem depends upon. Desertification and deforestation causes the land to deteriorate rapidly. Although Jordan is committed to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), illegal hunting and trapping is still common which is threatening a host of wildlife species. Traffic and vehicular movement is increasing rapidly in Jordan which is also reading to soil erosion and death of animals.

Roadmap for Biodiversity Conservation

Jordan is working toward more profound strategic policies and actions to meet the requirements of the Convention on Biological Diversity. At the national level, the goal is to raise public awareness about nature as related to the conservation of biodiversity, and to direct national concern in different sectors about the conservation and management of Jordan’s natural habitat in a sustainable way. Decision makers in Jordan should be more aware of the threats facing biological diversity and the degree of its deterioration.

An important development is a multidisciplinary approach that uses geographic information system (GIS) analysis. The plan should involve many stakeholders, including the government, specialized nongovernmental organizations, local communities, and representatives research initiations and universities. As a response to the urgent need for conservation of biodiversity in Jordan, I suggest the following solutions:

  • Rehabilitation of damaged ecosystems in order to promote biodiversity and solving causes of poverty and unemployment – Poverty is both a cause and a consequence of biodiversity degradation: poor people are forced to put urgent needs before the long-term quality of the biodiversity.
  • Designing water supply models and monitoring water quantity and quality for plant and animal biodiversity. To reduce pressure from the growing urban demand, a long-term water solution will require fundamental changes in national water policy and adoption of a large-scale management by the Jordanian government.
  • Coordinating implementation of the plan between the local communities, government agencies and the private sector. It is important to involve local communities in decision making regarding hunting, water use and grazing.
  • Implementation of comprehensive plan, guidelines and national and international policies for sustainable development of arid areas, preservation of biodiversity, and adoption of strategies to prevent harmful practices such as overgrazing or over extraction of water.
  • Establishment of separated areas for biodiversity conservation, off-limits to grazing and other activities, and the monitoring of biodiversity in those areas.
  • Addressing the problems faced by farmers, such as crop selection. There is currently a lack of information on alternative crops that are tolerant to water stress and water-saving irrigation techniques. Livestock owners need services such as grazing reserves and infrastructure for marketing milk and other products.
  • Land use plans are essential for conservation of biodiversity of Jordan, there is an urgent need to encourage shifting the rural pressure to none fertile land, also new trends should be adopted to minimize reduction in forested land and reforest cleared areas.
  • Establishment of more natural reserves to give Jordanians beautiful places to visit and preserve Jordan’s beauty for future generations. A network of protected areas for ecosystems species and genetic resources preservation must also be established.
  • Introduction of sustainable systems for farming, include disease control and crops that help to regenerate soils. Appropriate support and encouragement to farmers to adopt new policies and new practices, such as water-saving irrigation techniques and plantings of sustainable crops such as date palms or honey production.

Jordan is committed to study its biodiversity to conserve its natural resources and ensure the sustainable use of its resources. It is also hoped that Jordan Biodiversity study will be the basis for cross-cultural cooperation and exchange, resulting in scientific integration between Jordan and the rest of the World. The result of applying there principle across several areas will be a visible recovery and improvement of Jordan’s ecosystem. Additionally, new jobs will be created as part of the conservation efforts.

A biological survey is necessary to monitor changes in the Jordanian ecosystems.  National guidance is required, as well as national and international funding for these activities. Appropriate development organizations should encourage research in ethno-biology to identify plant and animal species used by local people, which will prevent species from being irretrievably lost. 

As human induced environmental change continues, society is facing an increasing array of pressing environmental challenges. Answers to these complex challenges must be informed by coordinated, long-term interdisciplinary research. The LTER sites (Long term ecological research sites) are poised to address a set of new initiatives to be pursued in response to these environmental challenges.

Considering that one third of the land mass surface of the earth is classified as arid land, knowledge of the composition of their bio-communities and of how these communities are affected by landscape sustainability measures will find wider application in landscape sustainability programs and contribute to future global policies. Government and specialized environmental NGO involvement is essential for the success of these measures.

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Regional Integrated NGO Master Plan for the Jordan Valley

jordan-valleyEcoPeace Middle East is a unique organization that brings together Jordanian, Palestinian, and Israeli environmentalists. Our primary objective is the promotion of cooperative efforts to protect our shared environmental heritage. In so doing, we seek to advance both sustainable regional development and the creation of necessary conditions for lasting peace in our region. EcoPeace has offices in Amman, Bethlehem, and Tel-Aviv. EcoPeace is a project oriented NGO, using both a “top-down” (advocacy) approach coupled with a “bottom-up” (grass roots / community) strategy that has proven to be a very effective work model.

Regional Integrated NGO Master Plan

EcoPeace Middle East recently launched the "Regional Integrated NGO Master Plan for the Jordan Valley", from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea. Akin to a Marshal Plan, this plan aims to convert a polluted river and highly depressed economic area to a model for river rehabilitation, economic growth, and regional stability.

127 specific regional and national projects ("interventions") have been identified in the framework of the Master Plan, with a total investment value of 4.58 billion USD until the year 2050. The interventions are grouped around 7 strategic planning objectives: Pollution Control, Sustainable Water Management and River Rehabilitation, Sustainable Agriculture, Jordan River Basin Governance, Ecological Rehabilitation, Sustainable Tourism and Cultural Heritage Development, and Urban and Infrastructure Development.

Strategic Planning Objectives

The key development challenge facing the NGO Master Plan is to strike the right developmental balance between a healthy economic developmental path for the valley and its people on the one hand, and a Jordan River with sufficient environmental flows to sustain a healthy ecosystem on the other hand. To meet this objective there is a need to ensure that the river serves as a natural water conveyor and source for water supply for residents in and outside the valley. Creative solutions are therefore needed to provide sufficient water to supply the projected water requirements of both people and nature. A prerequisite for peace and prosperity is the equitable sharing of water resources and public access to lands and the riverbanks for all riparian nationalities within an appropriate security framework.  

The key strategic planning objectives that would promote sustainable development for the trans-boundary NGO Master Plan for the Jordan Valley have been identified as 

  1. Pollution Control and Sanitation
  2. Sustainable Water Management and River Rehabilitation
  3. Sustainable Agriculture
  4. Jordan Valley Governance
  5. Ecological Rehabilitation
  6. Sustainable Tourism and Cultural Heritage Development
  7. Sustainable Urban, Energy and Infrastructure Development

Pollution Control and Sanitation

The objective in terms of pollution control and sanitation is to eliminate all sources of environmental pollution in the Jordan Valley by 2025. This requires full and adequate treatment and reuse of all wastewater flows in the valley and to embark on fully integrated solid waste management, including:

  • (separate) waste collection,
  • transportation;
  • transfer;
  • reuse and recycling of solid waste streams;
  • selection, planning, design and construction of a sanitary landfill;
  • closing of existing non-sanitary dump sites;
  • development of composting facilities;
  • Based on the polluter – pays – principle and progressive taxation for heavy consumers.

The situation today in terms of sanitation and wastewater treatment in Jordan and Palestine is poor. This impacts the public health, as well as the possibilities to use the water resources for economic development. The challenge is to reach a situation where generated wastewater is collected, treated and reused for agricultural purposes, or to introduce better functioning sanitation systems using substantially smaller amounts of water, such as vacuum removal of toilet effluents, or electric incinerating toilets. In any case, localized solutions are preferred, avoiding the use of extensive sewer systems throughout the Jordan Valley. 


In terms of environmental management, the challenge will be to implement integrated environmental management systems throughout the valley, including monitoring, enforcement and public awareness on wastewater and solid waste management, also focused on non-pollution sources; groundwater protection; water quality management; soil quality and air quality. Land preservation, groundwater protection zoning and problems related to overgrazing are to be addressed adequately.

Sustainable environmental management also requires adequate tools, such as dedicated impact assessment tools and Strategic Environmental Assessments to test new policies and strategies related to the Jordan Valley. In addition, environmental management in the valley requires enhancing water and environmental awareness of all communities, schools and municipalities in the valley, and implementing environmental standards instance according to the ISO norms 14000 and 14001. In terms of agricultural environmental management the challenge is to assist farmers in applying sustainable agronomic practices, including regulation of the use of pesticides and fertilizers and promotion of environmentally sustainable substances. This will support farmers in reaching international agricultural export and import standards.

Note: This is the first article in our special series on 'Regional Integrated NGO Master Plan for the Jordan Valley'

Women and the Environment in Arabia

Women and the environment are closely interlinked, throughout history, different nations glorified women as powerful symbols of nature, and nature has always been given the female characteristics: care, reproduction and life-giving. Nevertheless, women’s involvement in the preservation of the environment has seldom been recognized and documented in the histories of several nations.

One of the most significant phenomena in the last decades is recognition of women rights to achieve sustainable development; many international agreements reflected this recognition, including Rio Declaration in 1992, which stresses the point of the centrality of the full women participation to achieve environmental sustainability. The UN Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012 has acknowledged the importance of gender equality and women empowerment, the CBD identifies the integration of women right in biodiversity conservation as intrinsically vital. Linking gender equality and sustainable development is not only important for ethical and moral reasons, but also because achieving gender equality as human rights of women is prerequisite of a fair and sustainable globe and future.

Increasingly, achievement environmental sustainability is recognized as central to pursue development goals. It`s crucial that gender equality —a human right—is central to this pursuit. Worldwide, there is a perception that women are closer to nature than men, as women interact directly and more intensively with the natural surroundings more than their counterparts' men, which produced their profound experience, understanding and knowledge about the environment. Many studies on women and environment have shown that women are significant role player in natural resources management and ecological preservation. Women have served as farmers, water and firewood collectors and scientists with more respective and caring attitude.

The interesting dilemma about all is since women interact directly with the environment, and because of their roles as home-managers, they are often vulnerable to several environmental threats and hazards especially rural women in developing countries. The toxic environmental hazards may increase the risk of birth defects, abortion, perinatal death, and fetal growth retardation.

Women in Agriculture and Plant and Soil Conservation

Globally, women produce around half of all the grown food, women`s roles in agriculture include: planting, cultivation, production, weeding, distribution, harvesting and storage, women are also involved in animal farming such as rearing poultry and goat. Some examples of women role in agriculture in Arabia include rural women in the Jordan Valley, who have proved themselves in agricultural work and is now irreplaceable in various agricultural operations. In addition, women have participated in and led soil and plant conservation projects. A role model is the Royal Botanic Garden (RBG) of Jordan, led by its founder HRH Princess Basma bint Ali. The RBG aims to preserve plants and ecosystems, and promote biodiversity research and environmental education in Jordan.

Women in Forest Management and Tree Planting                                                

In many areas of the Arab world, natural resources, such as firewood, are the main source of energy for domestic consumption. Unfortunately, the extensive use of these sources has led to forests degradation and air pollution. At the same time, women are the main contributor in forest management through planting and protection. A good example is the campaign organized by the APN, represented by its President Razan Zeater, which has planted more than two million trees in Jordan and Palestine.

Women and Water Resources

Around the Middle East, women constitute the main group of direct users of water for household consumptions. Therefore, they are a mainstream interest group in water management to provide and safeguard their own water resources. Women involvement in water management is growing up, but not yet receiving the attention it deserves. To fill the gap, many programs are launched to empower women at all levels including research. Dr. Malak AlNory, a scientist and a winner of Ibn Khaldun fellowship, researched the supply chain for water in Saudi Arabia and was the first Saudi woman presented her paper at the IDA Congress in 2013.

Women and Waste Management

Women role in waste management include garbage disposal management and research. Dr.Sumaya Abbas, a Bahraini engineer and a winner of L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women In Science Fellowship, works on waste management and waste transformation into energy. “Because oil and gas resources are depleting, we are looking at alternatives sources of energy, and waste is one of them ” she clarifies.

Women and Energy

Worldwide, many people lack access to modern, clean energy, which has a huge impact on general quality of life. Rural women devote much of their time as fuel gatherers. Additionally, women work on projects to produce energy. An excellent model is the Jordanian brave Bedouin Rafea, who decided to challenge gender roles in her Bedouin community and followed her aspirations to light up her underprivileged village by enrolling in a solar program in India. Rafea has not only become the first female solar engineer in Jordan, but she has also set up 80 small-scale solar systems, helping her village to become solar-powered. Today Rafea is a role model, an elected leader and training many others on how to use sustainable energy.

Women and Policy

There is growing evidence of the synergies between gender equality and environmental sustainability. While women participation is vital, their involvement in policy-making aimed at sustainability does not mean better gender equality, especially when the foundations of gender inequality remain unchanged. Governments and donor agencies target women as influential agents for green transformation.

However, such stereotypical assumptions which view women as “sustainability saviors” have risks, as it's based on the assumption that women are unlimited resource that can sustain environments without consideration of women’s health, time, knowledge, interests and opportunities. Thus, women’s involvement in policy-making focused only at sustainability doesn't mean better gender equality; on the contrary, increase of women’s already heavy unpaid work burdens without consideration of their benefits in advantage to the environment can worsen gender inequalities and power imbalances.


Despite the challenges, this is a time of great opportunity for Arab women.  Worldwide, there are many examples of alternative pathways that move towards environmental sustainability and gender equality synergistically, which means respect for women knowledge, capabilities and rights, while ensuring that roles are matched with rights, control over resources and decision-making power.



  1. Wuyep, Solomon Z. et al "Women Participation in Environmental Protection and Management: Lessons from Plateau State, Nigeria." American Journal of Environmental Protection, n.d. Web. 2014.
  2. Yalan, Zhu. Women’s Participation in Environmental Protection Organizations—A Qualitative Study of Australian Women’s Involvement in Green Non-Governmental Organizations. Diss. D the Graduate School of Beijing Foreign Studies U, 2007. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
  3. Chelala, Cesar. "Women's Role Key to Saving Environment." China Daily. N.p., 2011. Web. 27 July 2015.
  4. "Women, Environment and Sustainable Development: Making the Links." UNEP (n.d.): n. pag. Web. <>.
  5. The Environment and Women's Health (n.d.): n. pag. Web. <>.
  6. JACKSON, CECILE. "Doing What Comes Naturally? Women and Environment in Development." World Development. N.p., n.d. Web.
  7. Schultz, . al  "Research on Gender, the Environment and Sustainable Development." N.p., n.d. Web. <>.
  8. UN Documents. Beijing Platform for Action. Chapter IV. K. Women and the Environment, n.d. Web. 26 July 2013.
  9. "Gender and Sustainable Development." (2014): n. pag. The Research and Data Section of UN Women. Web..
  10. "Postural Synergies: Gender Equality, Economic Development and Environmental Sustainability." SpringerReference (2012): n. pag. UNDP. Web.
  11. "For Women, It's Personal." N.p., n.d. Web. 31 July 2015.
  12. "WEDO » NEW Article: "Women and Energy Access: Impact on Sustainable Development and Livelihoods"" WEDO RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 July 2015
  13. "Sustainable Energy." (2010): n. pag""
  14. Rafea: Solar Mama. Dir. Jehane Noujaim and Mona Eldaief. Perf. Rafea, Rouf Dabbas, Um Bader. N.p., 2014. Web. <>.
  15. Sarant, Louise. "L'Oreal-UNESCO Recognises Exceptional Arab Women Scientists." – News. Nature Middle East, 9 Feb. 2013. Web. 31 July 2015. <>.
  16. <2015>.

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Water-Food Linkage in Arab World

The water-food linkage represents an important and vital nexus in the Arab countries. Under the current unstable food security situation (fluctuating energy prices, poor harvests, rising demand from a growing population, the use of bio-fuels and export bans have all increased prices), the ability for the Arab countries to feed their growing population is severely challenged by competition over increasingly limited water resources. Agriculture is currently challenged by competition among sectors on available water resources.

While the majority of water in the Arab region is used inefficiently in the agricultural sector (about 85% with less than 40% efficiency), which is not only crucial for food production but also employs a large labor force of rural population, the contribution of agriculture to GDP is significantly low. Hence, and using the argument of higher productivity per drop, voices are increasingly advocating for shift of water resources from agriculture to meet pressing demands of the industrial and municipal sectors.  The negative repercussions of that on the agricultural sector and rural population are most evident.  However, improving irrigation efficiency can release water for other uses (see AFED report on water in the Arab Region).

The Arab countries are far from having enough water to grow sufficient basic food, the obsession with the idea of self-sufficiency at any cost, had been predominant in the 1970s and 1980s, has been abandoned. It is no longer rational or sustainable. In fact, the region has been importing more and more food to meet its need. Recent studies have shown that more than half of the food calories consumed in the region is imported and would increase to 64% over the next two decades (World Bank, 2009). An older study in the mid-1990s showed that the food imports of the region were equivalent to 83 billion m3 of virtual water, or about 12% of the region’s annual renewable water resources. In fact, the same study has shown that for selected countries, this percentage was much higher: Algeria (87%), Egypt (31%), Jordan (398%), Libya (530%) and Saudi Arabia (580%) (FAO, 2001). With the rise of the population and improvement of lifestyles, one can expect these figures to be much higher today.

A better policy to address national food security can be to improve agricultural production and maximise water productivity and to rely on virtual water trade in food imports. By importing water intensive crops, not only can there be local water savings, there are also energy savings through reduction in withdrawal of irrigation water from deep aquifers (Siddiqi and Anadon, 2011), which could be significant for many Arab countries that have energy intensive groundwater withdrawals, such as the GCC countries. 

Moreover, Arab food security could be achieved through regional agricultural integration that combines the relative comparative advantages of all of the Arab countries, such as land and water resources, human resources, and financial resources. Joint agricultural projects could be implemented towards achieving food security for the region as a whole using advanced agricultural methods supported by active R&D programs in agricultural production as well as effective governance of water and land resources. 


  1. World Bank. 2009. Water Resources: Managing a Scarce, Shared Resource.
  2. FAO. 2001. The State of Food and Agriculture 2001. Rome, Italy.
  3. Siddiqi, A., and Anadon, L. D. 2011. The water-energy nexus in Middle East and North Afirca. Energy policy (2011) doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2011.04.023. 

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