by Raed Omari – Nov 12,2015

The Forestry Department says 13 people are behind the violations committed in the forests of Ajloun and Jerash

AMMAN — Only 13 people are behind the violations committed in the forests of Ajloun and Jerash, but they remain free to repeat their actions, according to the Agriculture Ministry.

“We have identified these 13 assailants and informed the concerned authorities to summon them,” Eid Zu’bi, director of the Agriculture Ministry’s Forestry Department said.

“Unfortunately these people are still on the loose although they are wanted for other crimes.”

Zu’bi added that the ministry has no authority to summon or prosecute these people, stressing that the assaults on forests in Ajloun and Jerash will end “once these 13 people are in prison”.

“These people even use unlicensed cars or cars with no licence plates while committing their crimes against forests.”

Arsonists are suspected to be behind the frequent fires that erupt in forested areas across the Kingdom, with authorities blaming what they describe as the “logging mafia”.

Forests in Jordan constitute less than 1 per cent of the country’s total area of 97,000 square kilometres.

Jordan is among the poorest countries worldwide in terms of forest cover, with the internationally accepted average of land covered by forests standing at 15 per cent of the total area.

Zu’bi said his department has sent official letters to the interior minister to summon these people.

He also explained that illegal loggers cannot be tackled only through “administrative detention”.

“They can serve prison terms under the Agriculture Law. They are also wanted on other charges,” Zu’bi said, noting that “why they are still free remains a mystery”.

Under environmental regulations, those who cut down forest trees without a licence face a three-month prison term, a JD100 fine for each tree chopped down from state-owned land and a JD50 fine for each one from private land. In addition, their equipment is confiscated.

In October, the Public Security Department’s (PSD) Rangers, in cooperation with the Agriculture Ministry’s forestry department, announced that they would increase patrols to curb violations on forests, especially with the onset of winter.

The PSD said administrative and legal procedures would be taken against violators and that the department would enhance surveillance and prosecution against random logging, adding that the decision aims to preserve the Kingdom’s forests.

Under the law, logging of perennial trees can only occur after receiving special permits issued by the Agriculture Ministry. This guarantees that no damage comes to the Kingdom’s environment or forests.

A total of 12,000 violations have been recorded on bare forestry lands, Agriculture Minister Akef Zu’bi said in recent remarks, highlighting that 7,000-8,000 of those breaches occurred in the last 25 years.

Forestry lands amount to 1.5 million dunums, of which 250,000 dunums are bare, 400,000 dunums are natural forests, 500,000 dunums are planted forests and 350,000 are nature reserves, according to the Forestry Department.