By Hana Namrouqa

AMMAN – The Cabinet has approved the declaration of Kheyouf in Balqa Governorate as a special conservation area (SCA) due to its ecological significance and integration of nature protection with development.

The Kheyouf area, which is part of Zarqa River’s lower watershed, located to the west of the King Talal Dam, was selected as an SCA due to the integration of land usage for development purposes with protection of unique ecosystems, Minister of Environment Taher Shakhshir said on Tuesday.

“The quality of Zarqa River water in the Kheyouf area improved in recent years after treated wastewater discharged from the Khirbet Al Samra Wastewater Treatment Plant improved. This has resulted in a revival of vital ecosystems, as well as animal and plant species living around freshwater sources in the area,” Shakhshir said in a statement released by the ministry yesterday.

The minister underscored that Kheyouf’s designation as an SCA will support sustainable development projects in the agricultural area.

Special conservation areas are geographically defined sites characterised by unique natural and cultural heritage. Generally smaller than nature reserves, SCAs have more specific ecological roles and aim to integrate local development with sustainable management of natural resources.

Ministry of Environment Spokesperson Isa Shboul said Kheyouf represents a natural habitat for several animal and plant species.

“Initial studies indicate that the area is home to the Buckthorn shrub, Black Iris and wild thyme among other plants.

Kheyouf is also home to different kinds of mammals such as the red fox, striped hyena and wolves,” he told The Jordan Times yesterday.

In addition, several bird species also inhabit the area including partridges, nightingales and different types of doves, Shboul noted.

During last week’s session, the Cabinet authorised the Ministry of Environment to manage the Kheyouf special conservation area through a committee comprising a local society, the Jordan Valley Authority, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature.