By Hana Namrouqa – Apr 17,2016

AMMAN — With the onset of the picnicking season, more than 1,500 people visit Bergesh Forest, located 90kms northwest of the capital, in Ajloun Governorate on the weekends, according to an official.

The area’s moderate climate and dense green cover attracts an increasing number of visitors, the majority of whom are Jordanians, according to Bergesh Mayor Sameh Duhni.

“Families come to Bergesh because of the area’s beautiful sceneries and clean air. In addition, its near location to the Jordan Valley makes its weather moderate and suitable for picnicking activities,” Duhni said.

People start visiting Bergesh Forest in late March, he added, noting that the picnicking season continues until mid October in the area.

“But with the increasing tourist activities in Bergesh, the littering problem arises. Despite continuous campaigns to raise visitors’ awareness on the need to keep the site clean, trash is still seen spreading between the trees,” Duhni noted.

The mayor said trash bins are distributed across the part of the forest that witnesses high tourist activities, underscoring the need for establishing tourist facilities and parking lots to organise the site on weekends.

Bergesh Forest, where the green cover stands at 90 per cent, represents an integrated ecosystem that houses over 100 plant species — 13 per cent listed as rare, 4 per cent as locally or internationally threatened and 13 per cent as holding medicinal value, according to ecologists at the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature.

Forests during summer are a major attraction for visitors, particularly on weekends, which results with piling trash at the sites and occasional fires that start due to negligence to put out barbeque fires properly, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

Forests in Jordan constitute less than 1 per cent of the country’s total area of 97,000 square kilometres, making Jordan among the poorest countries worldwide in terms of forest cover, with the internationally accepted average of land covered by forests standing at 15 per cent of the total area.

As the weather started to warm up, the ministry urged picnickers to avoid lighting fires at forests, noting that trees easily catch fire because they are surrounded by dry bushes and broken branches, in addition to the fact that resin makes trees easily flammable.

During sunny and warm weekends, rangers of the ministry’s Forestry Department increase patrol over popular picnicking sites, according to the ministry.

The rangers are approaching picnickers to raise their awareness on the dangers of lighting fires at forest areas and also educate them on the right way to put out fires.

Picnickers are urged to completely extinguish fires before departure, to pour water over the fire, turn wood and coals over to wet all sides and all remaining ash and to spread soil onto the fire site and mix.

Forestry lands amount to 1.5 million dunums, of which 250,000 dunums are bare, 400,000 dunums are natural forests, 500,000 dunums are planted forests and 350,000 are nature reserves, according to the ministry’s figures.
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