Launching of the Zarqa River Restoration Project

29 April 2009 | News story

The severely polluted Zarqa River in Jordan has long been considered a source of controversy and drawn complaints from area residents who say pollution levels have become so severe that the river emits a stench, attracting insects, particularly in the summer. The Jordanian Ministry of Environment in partnership with IUCN Regional Office for West Asia (ROWA) launched the Institutional Capacity Building Project for the Zarqa River Restoration. The three-year-project is funded by the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation with about 965,000 Euros.

This capacity building project is considered the cornerstone for implementing the Zarqa River Restoration Strategy that was developed by the Ministry of Environment and IUCN ROWA. The strategy is strongly built on the Integrated Ecosystem Management Approach that involves all economic, social and environmental sectors in addition to the local communities in the different layers and stages of the project.

“This is the first time we institutionalize the work on Zarqa River Restoration, and the establishment of the Zarqa River Unit demonstrates the government’s commitment towards the restoration process,” Minister of Environment HE Eng. Khaled Al-Irani said. “Through this new strategy we have agreed on a common framework for Zarqa River Restoration, and this is what the ministry seeks to achieve,” he added.

“The project aims at mainstreaming environmental well-being and sustainability into the policies and strategies adopted for the Zarqa basin,” Spanish Ambassador to Jordan HE Mr. Manuel Lorenzo said. “Zarqa River is an important water source for thousands of people, but noted that it suffers from pollution, depletion and water quality degradation,” he noted.

“If we succeeded in rehabilitating the Zarqa River, this will play a major role in the social and economic development in Jordan,” IUCN Regional Director for West Asia Dr. Odeh Al Jayyousi said. “Ecosystem restoration takes long years to be achieved, and there is no quick fix,” he added.

“IUCN will provide technical assistance to the ministry and implement a number of pilot projects alongside the river to form a model that can be implemented in other part of the river,” IUCN Zarqa Project Coordinator Mr. Mufleh Al Abbadi said.

“Five pilot areas have been identified in Ain Ghazal, Russaifeh, Zawahreh, Khirbet Al Samra and Tal Al Dahab after a comprehensive field survey for the river,” Zarqa Project Advisor Mr. Tarek Abul-Hawa said.

It is worth mentioning that IUCN and the ministry have done a series of workshops and dialogues with the local communities and stakeholders in the hot spots of the river area to come up with local strategic plans from the grass root level that will feed into the rehabilitation strategy of the river basin.

This rehabilitation process is linked with many other factors, such as expanding the Khirbet Al Samra plant, tackling the Ain Ghazal sewage tanker facility and the generated sewage, rehabilitating the area’s sewage networks which flow into the river every winter, and dealing with industrial wastewater from factories.

The project has established a specialized unit for the restoration project with a qualified technical team that developed a training needs assessment and a training program for the project partners.

In a step towards raising the awareness of all stakeholders on river restoration methodologies, the project has also started with the translation process of three IUCN Water & Nature publications on river restoration management namely; Ecosystem Approach, Flow and Pay.