By Hana Namrouqa

AMMAN – The Ministry of Environment has amended the Environment Protection Law to maximise penalties against violators and increase the amount of fines for environmental violations, Minister of Environment Taher Shakhshir said on Sunday.

The law will be referred soon to the Prime Ministry for approval.

Environment and legal experts started reviewing the environment law in 2009 after discovering several loopholes that allow violators to escape punishment, according to officials at the Ministry of Environment.

“Experts eliminated legal loopholes in the amended Environment Protection Law and added new vital articles that were overlooked by the current law, such as compensation for damaging the environment,” Ministry Spokespseron Isa Shboul told The Jordan Times.

Currently, several laws concerned with environmental protection, as well as the Penal Code, govern the work of the ministries of agriculture and water.

In total, 21 items of legislation incorporating environment-related provisions are currently in effect. These laws frequently contradict each other, making it impossible for any judge to issue a verdict against a violator without finding a loophole in another law, according to environment officials.

The law was amended under a technical cooperation programme between the Ministry of Environment and the US Environment Protection Agency (EPA). The programme was launched in 2009 and its first phase concluded last month.

Jordan and the US signed an agreement in 2008 under which the EPA assisted the Kingdom in improving the environment and water sectors and promoting strong environmental laws and policies and their enforcement for purposes of fostering sustainable development and capacity building in the Kingdom’s management of water and other natural resources.

Under the technical training programme, environment inspectors, investigators, judges and trainers of trainers were educated on environment issues, according to Shboul.