By Hana Namrouqa

JORDAN VALLEY – Vital ecosystems and rare biodiversity have been restored to the Sheikh Hussein area in the Jordan Valley after land suffering from environmental degradation was turned into a green eco-park.

Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) started working on the Sharhabil Ben Hassnah Eco-Park in 2005 with the aim of reversing the environmental degradation in the area, part of which was used for soil mining for establishing the Sharhabil Ben Hassnah Dam.

“The eco-park, which will be officially launched by next year, aims at protecting nature, especially since the area suffered from random grazing,” FoEME Vice Chairman Abdul Rahman Sultan said during a tour of the area earlier this week.

Spread over 2,700 dunums of green hills and valleys, the eco-park also aims to create a breathing space for families and serve as an educational and awareness-building tool on environmental issues, he added.

The eco-park houses the 4.3-million-cubic-metre Sharhabil Ben Hassnah Dam, which is categorised as one of the purest water sources in Jordan and used for drinking water and irrigation purposes, according to conservationists.

Studies indicate that the eco-park contains 250 types of wild plants, 53 bird species, 18 of which are globally endangered, and five mammals, four of which are globally threatened, such the hyena, Sultan noted.

“The fact that the area is home to such rare ecosystems and habitats shows that conservation and protection efforts have paid off,” he underscored.

The park features 10 eco-lodges, long and short hiking trails, a turtle pond and a picnic area among other facilities.

It is located in the Sheikh Hussein area in Pella District, which has a population of 10,000 people, the majority of whom work in agriculture.