By Mohammad Ghazal

AMMAN – The number of migratory birds stopping over in Jordan has dropped by 20 per cent due to an “unprecedented absence of rain”, the Royal Society for Conservation of Nature (RSCN) said on Wednesday.

Researchers said they are witnessing a significant drop in the number of birds, who are normally attracted to the reflection of water in mudflats across the country.

With a poor rainy season and the country’s shrinking wetlands, many migratory birds are now being forced to travel further and further to find water and places to rest, RSCN Bird Researcher Tareq Qaneer told The Jordan Times over the phone on Wednesday.

He said the RSCN has recorded a “significant” drop in the water table of major mudflats, which have long been main attractions for birds of various species.

According to Qaneer, the largest drop was registered in the Azraq Wetlands and the adjacent mudflat, in addition to other major mudflats in the eastern desert.

Although an “increasing” number of birds are flying south to Aqaba to rest before continuing their southward journey, “we are still seeing fewer birds stopping in Jordan,” he noted.

In order to determine the scope of the impact, a team comprising members of the RSCN and environmentalists will conduct a census on migratory birds in the Kingdom and is expected to release the results next week, he said.

Qaneer added that the RSCN will release a detailed report on the types of birds registered in the country over the past decade by the end of the year.

The Kingdom has witnessed a disappointing rainy season so far, prompting the Ministry of Water and Irrigation to draft an emergency water plan to better manage limited water resources.

According to the ministry, the country’s dams, with a total capacity of 215.44 million cubic meters (mcm), currently hold 76mcm of water, while the 110mcm Wihdeh Dam holds 5mcm.

Ministry figures show that the dams held around 79.41mcm during this time last year.