by Hana Namrouqa – Feb 07,2016

Lawmakers attend a recent Lower House session. Conservationists say that environmental issues do not receive enough attention under the Dome (File photo)

AMMAN — Conservationists have criticised the Lower House for a lack of discussion of issues concerning the environment, calling on MPs to appreciate its role in the Kingdom’s sustainable development and economic growth.

Environmental issues, whether related to investing in the environment or protecting its elements, are always missing from the discussions and agendas of parliamentarians, according to experts in the field.

Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) President Khaled Irani charged that the handling of environmental issues and problems at the Lower House is weak and disorganised.

“Sadly, the way Parliament handles the country’s environmental challenges is always reactive, and most often, on the spur of the moment,” said Irani, a former minister of environment as well as energy and mineral resources.

The current regional turmoil and its impact on the country’s political, economic and security conditions also play a role in relegating environmental issues to the bottom of any parliamentarian’s agenda, he told The Jordan Times.

“There are several economic and political concerns that overshadow the environment from the perspective of MPs,” the former minister said.

Irani added that the environment is not a hot topic for the media, reducing pressure on politicians to address the issue.

“There is no [public] demand for [protecting] the environment. It doesn’t sell in news and it doesn’t attract people’s attention,” the expert stressed, criticising Parliament for failing to question the government on its environment programme.

“You don’t see questioning of the government’s environmental plans and strategies or where it stands regarding hot environmental issues, such as waste management and its lost opportunities, excessive fumes, environmental violations, proper inspection, forests or loopholes in governing laws,” he said.

The environment must be linked to the Kingdom’s sustainable development and economic growth in order for the Lower House to incorporate it in its discussions and agenda, according to Safa Jayoussi, head of climate and energy campaigns at IndyACT and Climate Action Network’s Arab world coordinator.

“Less than 30 per cent of the parliamentarians at the Lower House see environment as a priority,” Jayoussi said.

She highlighted that Parliament has been cooperative regarding issues that garnered public attention, such as construction of nuclear reactors or cutting down trees in Bergesh Forest for the construction of a military academy.

“I’m afraid that the majority of the parliamentarians care more about media buzz; they care about raising issues that get highlighted by the mainstream media,” Jayoussi said.

The environmental activist highlighted that it is vital to raise the awareness of members of the Lower House on the importance of the environment and its role in supporting the economy and generating job opportunities.

“They need to understand that [protecting] the environment is not about hugging trees, it is very much linked to sustainable growth and supporting our economy,” Jayoussi noted.

MP Raed Hijazin, who chairs the Lower House Health and Environment Committee, said the panel has not discussed major environmental issues.

“Environmental issues are usually discussed during sessions of unscheduled topics,” Hijazin explained.

The committee, however, is currently in the process of discussing the draft environment protection law and its amendments, he noted, adding that the committee will also question the government on pollution in east Amman.
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