By Hana Namrouqa

AMMAN – The Ministry of Environment is distributing thousands of flytraps and insect-repellent trees in the Jordan Valley to curb the spread of domestic flies, a nuisance to area residents and tourists.

The environment-friendly methods are being implemented under a campaign launched in January to address one of the main environment and health problems in Jordan, Ministry of Environment Spokesperson Isa Shboul said on Sunday.

Jordan Valley farmers have long used untreated organic fertilisers, which attract domestic flies due to their high percentage of humidity.

No longer exclusively for agriculture, the area is now a growing luxury tourism destination with houses, hotels, villas and apartments being developed, necessitating a quick solution to the problem, according to officials.

“The higher steering committee for combating domestic flies in the Jordan Valley has also started an educational programme for raising people’s awareness on how they can contribute to our efforts,” Shboul told The Jordan Times yesterday.

Thousands of posters and flyers will soon be distributed to residents of the Jordan Valley, explaining how to use the flytraps and informing people about the agriculture ministry’s campaign to plant Neem trees.

Neem (Azadirachta indica), a tree of the mahogany family, is native to India, Burma, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Pakistan, growing in tropical and semi-tropical regions.

Its derivatives neutralise nearly 500 kinds of pests worldwide, including insects, mites, ticks and nematodes, by affecting their behaviour and physiology, according to web sources.

Non-toxic to higher animals, Neem trees don’t normally kill pests directly, but repel them and affect their growth.

The campaign also targets schoolchildren, and 15,000 notebooks will be distributed to fourth, fifth and sixth graders in Jordan Valley schools, with the aim of raising their awareness on the need to keep their schools and neighbourhoods clean to keep the flies away, Shboul underscored.

As part of its battle against Jordan Valley flies, authorities will spray pesticides in the Zara area near the shores of the Dead Sea as well as landfills and barns. The comprehensive campaign will also target areas considered as fly hotspots such as landfills and farms, according to the ministry.

Officials will also establish a solid and liquid waste treatment plant in Southern Shuneh this year as part of the campaign, to address the growth of unlicensed landfills in the Jordan Valley and properly process waste, according to Shboul.

The campaign is not the first effort by the environment ministry to curb the menace of domestic flies. In August 2009, the ministry instituted a crackdown on the use of organic fertilisers in the Jordan Valley while in 2008, major poultry and livestock farms were required to establish treatment plants to sterilise animal waste generated by their facilities to tackle the problem.