Valuing the Dead Sea Basin

05 September 2009 | News story

IUCN is involved in a study to integrate environmental economic values into planning scenarios for part of the Dead Sea Basin (Jordan). It’s the first work of its kind in the region.

Owing to its extraordinary biological, geological and cultural diversity, the Dead Sea basin in Jordan attracts thousands and thousands of visitors every year. The Northwestern part of this basin extends from the lowest point on earth at the shorelines of the Dead Sea to the undulating hilly landscape as we go to the east from Jordan Rift Valley. Altogether this creates a unique scenic landscape and amazing visitor’s experience.|
However, the Government of Jordan recently designated this area as a Development Zone under the mandate of Jordan Development Zones Commission (DZC). This part of the basin was also identified as a Special Conservation Area by the Royal Society for Conservation of Nature (IUCN member) to mainstream integrated environmental management and encourage environmentally sound economic development.
DZC realized the need to integrate the value of the environment into the development planning of this area in order to strengthen the economic case for nature conservation relative to unsustainable and environmentally hazardous development. DZC pursued this need and requested technical and financial support from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), who sub-contracted IUCN Regional office for West Asia (ROWA) to conduct an economic valuation of the Special Conservation Area.

IUCN ROWA mobilized a team of regional experts with the guidance of IUCN Head of Global Economics and Environment Programme: Dr. Andrew Seidl. The overall expected result of the subcontract is to integrate environmental economic values into planning scenarios within the Special Conservation Area. Visitors to the region will assess the impact of development within the zone on their tourism experience and expected expenditures. This way, the value and local economic implications of not developing (so intensively) can be compared on a common footing with developing the area with various forms of built infrastructure. The outcomes from this evaluation will be used later by the planners and decision makers at the Development Zones Commissions (DZC) to select the best use for the urban natural environment. The first work of its kind in the region, this study provides tools and resources as well as raises awareness on potential to wed economics and environment to benefit decision makers and local people.

The IUCN study team agreed with USAID and DZC to have this valuation fully participatory and gender insightful. A national task force of experts representing key related interest groups is working with the study team to facilitate the valuation process and meaningful outcomes. In addition to synthesizing the existing information, all parties agreed to adopt survey-based methods including contingent valuation and travel cost methods to generate the valuation information and business and resident surveys to better understand the regional economic implications of changes in visitation due to changes in environmental quality.

The study team will start conducting the surveys to collect date from primary sources in September 2009 and to carry out the valuation in October and November.