By Hana Namrouqa

AMMAN – The renovation of Dana Village, which sits at the edge of the Wadi Dana canyon, is set to start this month, conservationists said on Thursday.

The Dana Village, which serves as a gateway to the Dana Biosphere Reserve, was built on the ruins of a Byzantine castle and overlooks one of Jordan’s most scenic landscapes, according to the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN).

But due to the pressures of tourism and the need for income generation, unplanned developments are threatening to destroy the historical character and beauty of the village along with its long-term tourism value, according to Chris Johnson, director of a USAID-funded project for the development of ecotourism in southern Jordan.

The village will get a facelift under a $2 million project which aims to transform the site into Jordan’s first heritage village by renovating properties and developing a wide range of tourism facilities, Johnson told The Jordan Times Thursday.

A total of 90 applications were received from village householders to renovate their properties, Johnson said, noting that the crumbling houses will be transformed into a wide range of facilities, from small hotels to shops, studio apartments, laundromats and Internet cafés.

The renovations, which are to be carried out by local contractors, are slated to start within two weeks and last for some 18 months.

Once the renovations are complete, the tourist accommodation and facilities will support the development of the Dana Biosphere Reserve as the Kingdom’s top ecotourism destination, he noted.

“This project is one of the most difficult and challenging RSCN has ever undertaken… we have been negotiating the village master plan with the local community for over one year and it is great to finally see work starting on the ground,” Johnson underscored.

The project’s first phase is expected to be completed by the end of 2012. There are some 300 historical homes in the village which may also be renovated in later phases, according to Johnson.

The Dana Biosphere Reserve is internationally known for its biological diversity, and is home to some 98 archaeological sites.