By Hana Namrouqa

AMMAN – “A tree for every student” initiative will be launched today to increase the country’s less than 1 per cent of green cover, officials said on Saturday.

Minister of Agriculture Tayseer Smadi announced the initiative last week to mark Arbor Day.

One million saplings will be distributed to schoolchildren today to plant at their schools, homes or locations of their choice, Agriculture Ministry Media Office Director and Spokesperson Nimer Haddadin told The Jordan Times yesterday.

“As students plant the trees and become responsible for watering and caring for them, a new generation that is aware of the need to protect trees will be created,” he said.

Haddadin underscored that the country’s forests are being threatened by illegal logging and wild fires, in addition to lack of rain due to climate change.

“We are looking into stiffening penalties against people who cut down trees or start wild fires, deliberately or as a result of negligence,” he noted.

Trees will also be planted along the banks of the country’s dams as well as the desert highway, which links the country’s northern and southern regions.

Meanwhile, Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature Director General Yehya Khaled said it is vital to preserve existing trees from destruction before planting new ones.

“The actual problem lies in losing trees that are hundreds of years old by uprooting them for construction projects and roads, or due to fires and illegal logging,” he told The Jordan Times yesterday.

Khaled called on the authorities to carry out proper long-term planning when planting trees, noting that hundreds of trees were planted and then uprooted from the airport road as part of expansion work.

The tradition of Arbor Day in the Kingdom began in 1939 with a ceremony held at Jabal Al Qalaa. Since then, it has been an annual celebration, with the Ministry of Agriculture choosing a different location each year to plant various saplings.