The severely polluted stream of Zarqa River in Jordan is suffering from serious environmental degradation and without an urgent policy-level intervention, the future of the river will remain dark. In an effort to further elevate this issue to the policy level, the newly appointed Jordanian Minister of Environment Eng. Hazem Malhas carried out an exploration mission to Zarqa governorate to closely look at the environmental challenges encountering the river.
IUCN West Asia Regional Director, Dr. Odeh Al-Jayyousi accompanied the minister along with the Zarqa River Restoration Project team who briefed him about the progress of the project, which is being implemented by the Ministry in partnership with IUCN Regional Office for West Asia and funded by the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation.
The mission programme included a visit to the three Zarqa River pilot projects in Shomar and Jana’a in Zarqa city and the Basateen site in Rusaifa city. During his meeting with the local communities in those areas, the minister promised to them to improve the environmental conditions and life in those areas after expressing their needs and challenges.
The minister called upon urgent coordination among all governmental departments to find environmental and sustainable solutions to rehabilitate the river that is facing serious environmental impacts, such as leakage of waste water, drought and the absence of water flow of especially during summer. In addition the river suffers from serious contamination caused by industrial and solid wastes, spread of quarries across the governorate and the lack of vegetation.
The Minister also stressed on the importance of raising the awareness and building the capacity of all stakeholders, local communities, and decision makers and to implement environmental projects in the Zarqa governorate, where the pollution is severe and the consequences are tremendous. He added that partnership with the civil society associations is vital in order to intensify and integrate the efforts and address the serious problems threatening that area.
After the visit, the Ministry of Environment in collaboration with IUCN took urgent action to address the environmental situation in the Shomar, where the waste in and around the river was removed in coordination with the concerned authorities. Using the local requirements, the accumulated waste which was hampering the flow of water was removed along with the solid waste at the centre of the river. The cleaning process in that area took only four days to be accomplished.
In order to find a radical solution to the problem, IUCN signed an agreement with the Zarqa Municipality to implement an underground culvert for the transfer of wastewater to facilitate the flow of water and help residents move back and forth.