Azraq: an oasis under pressure

22 November 2009 | News story

Increasing water demands in water-scarce Jordan is putting pressure on one of the country’s largest groundwater basins, the Azraq oasis

Intensive pumping carried out over the past 20 years has caused a lowering of the basin’s water table, leading to increased salinity of the area’s soils. Over-extraction has also led to the drying up of springs, spurring wildfires across an increasingly dry environment. Agricultural expansion, urban growth and environmental needs all tap into the dwindling water resources, deteriorating further water quality and quantity in the region. With a fourth of Azraq’s groundwater channeled to Jordan’s capital Amman, a concerted action on managing and preserving the basin is underway, led by the IUCN West Asia Regional Office (ROWA).


The objective of the Azraq Oasis Restoration project is to contribute to the economic development of the region, poverty reduction and environmental sustainability. The IUCN Water and Nature Initiative (WANI), through ROWA is working in the Azraq basin to support the equitable management of water resources by building capacity of the different stakeholders and assisting in improving water resources management for agricultural production and environmental sustainability. This is done through enhancing participatory processes of sustainable water management as a continuous dialogue of all the different water users.


On November 17, participants of the 11th WANI meeting, including the global WANI team and ROWA project staff, met with various stakeholders of the Azraq basin. It provided for an insight perspective of the different needs and demands, and the environmental and socio-economic challenges the region is facing. The visit also included a tour of the Azraq Wetlands Reserve, a unique ecosystem lying at the heart of the basin and recognized as a Ramsar site for its wealth of biodiversity and importance for migratory bird species. IUCN is supporting the work of the Royal Society for Conservation of Nature (RSCN), an IUCN member, in its efforts to preserve and restore the Ramsar wetland site.


An important focus of the project is community empowerment, for different user groups of local communities to participate in decision making process concerning water resources and addressing long term access and rights to water. IUCN has identified the Arab Women Organization (AWO) as a partner in the project for community participatory planning and management. AWO is an IUCN member and is implementing joint project activities whilst IUCN supports AWO in process documentation and policy influencing.


The proposed project for the Azraq oasis restoration is planned for the period of June 2008 – November 2010. An important success factor will be the commitment of the Jordanian government and Azraq community to make the necessary efforts in the restoration process of the basin. The project operates under the policy and technical guidance of a Steering Committee composed of representatives from the Ministry of Environment, AWO, the Badia Development and Research Center (BDRC), and the IUCN WANI initiative.


For more information, please contact the IUCN Azraq Project Coordinator, Fida Haddad:
Fida.haddad@iucn.org

For photo requests, media and press, please contact the IUCN ROWA Communications Officer, Rania Faouri, or the Project Documentation Officer, Rana Fityani:
Rania.faouri@iucn.org
Rana.fityani@iucn.org