By Hana Namrouqa

AMMAN – The Ministry of Environment on Sunday launched the Jordan Environment Fund (JEF), which starts today receiving applications from parties planning to start eco-projects.

The JEF seeks to support socio-economic projects that improve the environment, rehabilitate degraded ecosystems and ensure the sustainability of the country’s natural resources, by partly financing the ventures, Minister of Environment Taher Shakhshir said on Sunday.

“The fund currently has JD4 million. Deadline for receiving applications for funding projects is August 31. In September, the proposed projects will be evaluated for feasibility, sustainability and conformity with the ministry’s goals,” Shakhshir told reporters during a press conference to announce the JEF launch.

Through soft loans, the fund will finance 75 per cent of the cost of projects proposed by the private sector and up to 95 per cent of the cost of projects proposed by the public sector, the minister said.

However, “the fund will finance eco-projects only this year through grants instead of soft loans to encourage institutions to apply”, Shakhshir announced, noting that cycles for financing projects will take place twice a year.

He said the fund will distribute this year JD1 million to projects that address Jordan’s pressing environment issues, including the treatment of industrial wastewater, solid waste management, energy conservation and renewable energy sources as well as environment-related small- and medium-sized enterprises.

The fund is partly financed through the earnings of projects under which carbon credits are sold to industrial countries as part of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects, which oblige industrial countries to support the implementation of environment-friendly projects in developing countries.

In 2009, Jordan received 1.5 million euros in return for selling carbon credits from the Aqaba Thermal Power Station, the first Jordanian venture registered as a CDM project.

Shakhshir added that the fund is also financed from the fines of environment violations, fees collected from testing radiation levels of junk pieces imported from Iraq as well as fees from environment impact assessments.

Ministry of Environment Secretary General Ahmad Qatarneh told The Jordan Times yesterday that fines of environment violations make up JD1 million of the fund’s assets, noting that efficient enforcement of environmental regulations will increase the amount and curb breaches at the same time.

The fund’s board of directors includes five representatives from the private sector and five representatives from the public sector in order to ensure transparency, JEF Director Hanaa Shehabi said yesterday.