Jordanian Parliamentarians visit Bakoura
On April 15th, FoEME took members from the Committee of Environment and Health in the Lower House of Parliament of Jordan to Bakoura, a military-controlled region near the border between Israel and Jordan. There, FoEME Amman Director explained the need to make the Bakoura region into a National Park, which would serve to increase eco-tourism and GDP in the region, as well as highlight the environmental, cultural, religious and historical significance of the area.

FoEME staff members showed the parliamentarians and journalists around Bakoura, stopping at the remains of the hydro-electric power station and three bridges spanning the quiescent Jordan River before leaving the region. The parliamentarians responded positively, and expressed that they would support a motion in Parliament to make the Bakoura National Park a reality.

Read more about what one journalist thought of the excursion in this Ad Dustour Article (Arabic), and on our blog.

FoEME in Tamera Portugal Water Symposium
The Second International Tamera Water Symposium, “Retention Landscapes as an Answer to Desertification and Globalization” held in Tamera, Portugal, invited FoEME’s Palestinian Director as a speaker for their Middle East Working Group, to present our Jordan River Rehabilitation program.

The symposium was convened to introduce a concept – through the example of the water retention landscape of Tamera – of how desertification can be reversed and the water cycle cured. Water experts, politicians, scientists, media representatives and specialists from around the world attended the conference to share their knowledge, exchange ideas and present their work publicly.

Last call at the Oasis – Opening in Select Theatres
“Last Call at the Oasis”, a new film by the producers of An Inconvenient Truth, is about the worldwide water crisis. Pollution, overconsumption, and climate change are threatening communities worldwide with water shortages, but the film — which opens at select theatres in New York and Los Angeles on May 4th, and in the E Street Cinema in Washington DC on May 11th — is entertaining, alarming and surprisingly, turns to Friends of the Earth Middle East’s Jordan River Rehabilitation program for solutions! Click here for more information about the film.

Israeli Public Hearing on Launch of Lower Jordan River Master Plan
This month, the Israeli Lower Jordan River Drainage Authority held its first public hearing presenting the Authorities’ plan to produce a master plan from Naharayim to Bezek Stream on the Israeli side. Findings of initial studies on ecology, archeology and cultural heritage were presented as well as an overview of future project outputs.

The hearing was very well attended, including the participation of many residents and former mayors and municipal staff, who over the years have participated in many of FoEME’s activities along the river valley. The Israeli government effort represents an important expression of political will towards the rehabilitation of the river – though the commitment of actual water quantities to be released remains well below what FoEME studies identified as needed.

The need for a regional effort was highlighted during the public hearing, including the opportunity presented by the regional NGO master plan that FoEME will launch in the coming weeks.

The Jordan River Rehabilitation Project is supported by the Swedish International Development Agency, the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, the Global Nature Fund / Ursula Merz Foundation and the Osprey Foundation.

Protecting Groundwater projects signs mayors on MoU
On April 18th, the Head of the EU Delegation in Tel Aviv, HE Ambassador Andrew Standley hosted a MoU Signing ceremony for 9 of the Israeli municipalities participating in FoEME’s “Protecting Groundwater” project. The MoUs reflect a commitment to protect groundwater resources, and is a milestone of trust and cooperation, built between FoEME and each municipality, with the support of the EU.

“Protecting Groundwater” is an international project aiming to empower selected Mediterranean basin municipalities with the technical and administrative skills to alleviate sources of groundwater pollution in their jurisdiction, as well as enhancing cooperation to protect common natural heritage. The project includes 28 municipalities from Spain, Palestine, Jordan and Israel.

The “Protecting Groundwater” project is supported by the European Union’s ENPI CBC Mediterranean Sea Basin Programme.

Hebron Site Tour
On April 25th, FoEME held a site visit in the Hebron Industrial Area in an effort to better understand the current status of wastewater management from local stonecutting and leather factories. The group toured the Hagar Wastewater Treatment Plant, currently functioning at 50% capacity, as well as the downstream Palestinian community of Yatta.

FoEME is currently supporting efforts to advance comprehensive water treatment capacity upstream in Hebron, working with the EU, World Bank, and representatives from Palestinian and Israeli communities along the river who are suffering from a constant flow of untreated wastewater from industry, slaughterhouses, sewage, and agriculture. The photo shows that not all of the slurry is poured into the Hebron stream. The challenge however, is to recycle more of it.

Israeli Teachers visit GWN community Ghor Safi
FoEME Jordan was pleased to host 18 teachers from Israel in Ghor Safi, one of our Good Water Neighbor’s communities in Jordan.

The group learned about FoEME’s environmental education program, taking much interest in our efforts to develop a Regional Environmental Education Resource Guide for educators. They also visited several stations of Ghor Safi’s Neighbors Path, including Lot’s Cave, Wadi Numeira and the Dead Sea Harmony Center. They enjoyed lunch prepared by the local women of the community at the Ghor Haditheh Center for Disabled Persons, and had a chance to see the ‘wise-water ecogarden’ built on the Center’s grounds by GWN youth ‘Water Trustees’ of the community.

Sri Lankan CEO visits the Good Water Neighbors Project
Following FoEME’s visit to Sri Lanka in January, the Good Water Neighbors project hosted Dr. Vinya Ariyartne last week, director of the largest NGO in Sri Lanka called Sarvodaya, for a reciprocal visit to the region, supported by the UK TAG Foundation.

Dr. Ariyartne and delegation visited Good Water Neighbors communities to see the project ‘on the ground’ and to study the feasibility of adapting the project’s methodology to Sri Lankan communities in conflict. The full day tour started at the West Jerusalem community where Dr. Ariyartne heard about the educational approach to environmental peacebuilding in such a complex reality, and then travelled to Auja and the Dead Sea to continue the study tour.

Earth Day events with FoEME
Friends of the Earth Middle East joined thousands in Tel Aviv’s central square to celebrate Earth Day 2012. FoEME staff members invited the public to visit its Good Water Neighbors communities’ Neighbors Paths throughout the country to get to know the region’s shared water resources including the Jordan River, the Mountain Aquifer and the Dead Sea.

The Sharhabil bin Hassneh EcoPark was full of youth this month – of all ages, and from all over Jordan. A group of 30 students from the International Academy in Amman came to the park for a 3-day youth camp, participating in workshops, pruning and caring for the trees that had been recently planted as part of the restoration efforts of the park, and other outdoor environmental projects. Another group of 40 youth from the International Independent School attended a youth activity at the Park, learning about conservation efforts and hiking through the park’s grounds to get a closer look at the biodiversity that has returned to the area. Another “must” activity was to mark Earth Day, where 60 children came to the EcoPark to plant trees and to participate in a general clean up of the area.

FoEME’s EcoTourism on the rise
Heightened interest in FoEME’s environmental peacemaking efforts has brought a number of interested groups to our EcoParks and Neighbors Path tours recently. Our Sharhabil bin Hassneh EcoPark in Jordan hosted 3 International groups this month; one from the Council on International Educational Exchange, one from B’Tzedek – both these groups returning for their 3rd year – and an interfaith group from the UK, who also visited our EcoPark in Ein Gedi prior to crossing to Jordan. Our Jordan Valley Environmental Education Center in Auja, Palestine hosted an interreligious faith group from Holland, hiking in nearby Wadi Qelt and the Auja Spring to learn more about the water resources in the region.

Come learn about FoEME’s regional efforts to preserve our common natural heritage by visiting our EcoParks and Neighbors Paths!

Read recent press coverage, including articles in the Jerusalem Post, Green Prophet, Ha’aretz, the Huffington Post, and more, on our Good Water Neighbors / Press Coverage 2012 page

The Good Water Neighbors project is supported by USAID, SIDA, the EU Partnership for Peace program, and the Rosenzweig Coopersmith Foundation.

“Climate Dots” by the Dead Sea – May 5th
Joining the global campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of climate change, FoEME and are organizing ‘A Climate Dot,’ this Saturday, May 5th, 2012, by the shores of the Dead Sea, in Jordan at 10:00 a.m. with school children and volunteers. Participants will be holding 350 balloons, which will rise up on 26 meter long strings to bob in the air where the Dead Sea’s water level used to be – and should still be. It will be quite a sight to see; a hauntingly visceral depiction of the loss experienced by the Dead Sea, and by us, the residents of this region. Read more on our blog.