AMMAN (Petra) – The Jordan Armed Forces (JAF) on Wednesday defended its decision to build a military academy in the forests of Ajloun, stressing that it has altered blueprints to limit the number of uprooted trees.

According to a JAF statement released yesterday, blueprints have been “drastically” altered to limit the uprooting of any trees in the construction of a planned military academy at Bergesh Forest, home to various endangered centennial trees.

The military academy is to be built on a 1,200-dunum area, including 700 dunums previously acquired from citizens, according to the JAF. The project entails 100,000 square metres (sq.m.) of facilities, 95,000sq.m. of open fields and 110,000sq.m. of green spaces.

Two per cent of the proposed site encompasses forest trees, an area the JAF claims will be used strictly for training purposes.

The JAF has worked to ensure that the project does not include any industrial elements that could potentially harm the environment and meets green building requirements, the statement added.

In its statement, the JAF reiterated that it has taken several measures to avoid uprooting centennial trees in line with the demands of Lower House committees, Ajloun residents and environmental groups.

The measures include the relocation of staff accommodation, field archery, playgrounds and water harvesting basins as well as scrapping the construction of an airstrip.

Such steps will limit the academy’s impact to the uprooting of 200 non-centennial trees, with plans in place for the JAF to plant 4,000 saplings, the statement added.

The academy’s blueprints have also been altered to comply with green building standards, the statement said, including utilising solar energy for water heating and liquefied natural gas for heating and the use of underground storage tanks for rainwater harvesting.

Also on Wednesday, several deputies and Ajloun residents urged for the project to go ahead as planned, claiming that the academy will bring badly needed jobs to the area.

Ajloun MPs Salma Rabadhi, Samih Momani Ahmad Qudah and Ali Ananzeh said the project will serve the local community and is in line with the government’s plans to develop the governorate, home to several poverty pockets, through the establishment of investment projects.

Meanwhile, the Professional Associations Council on Wednesday called on authorities to stop the acquisition of lands in Bergesh Forest, urging for the academy’s relocation.

The council claimed that the academy’s construction violates the Agriculture Law, which forbids uprooting, damaging or violating any centennial or rare trees or endangered flora.