Kingdom’s shrinking forest lands threatened by fires, illegal logging

By Hana Namrouqa – Sep 18,2016 –

A total of 1,982 violations on forest lands have been registered since 2002

AMMAN — Plans are under way to employ modern technology in combating violations against the Kingdom’s forests, government officials said on Sunday.

The Ministry of Agriculture is currently looking into utilising different technological methods in monitoring the forests to prevent illegal logging and arson, according to the ministry’s spokesperson, Nimer Haddadin.

“Authorities put in place all kinds of measures every winter to prevent the chopping of trees or wildfires and arson during summer; although the number of violations is declining, our precious forests are still threatened,” Haddadin told The Jordan Times.

He noted that the ministry is planning to use new technologies to control illegal logging and fires, but did not specify which methods would be used, highlighting that it will also seek funding to carry out its plan.

“Many of the fires that erupt in forests are deliberate by those seeking profit from selling wood… There are always new ways to start fires in forests, the newest of which is lighting up an old tyre and rolling it down the forest,” Haddadin said.

Raed Odwan, head of the ministry’s forestry department, said that violations on the country’s forests are connected to the increase in fuel prices and the spread of fireplaces in Amman.

“Now with winter approaching, we have coordinated with the Rangers to station nine new patrols on all of the entrances and the exits of forest areas to seize illegal loggers,” Odwan told The Jordan Times.

A fire erupted last week during Eid Al Adha holiday in an area between Jerash and Ajloun. The fire damaged over 50 dunums of forest lands planted with maple, oak and pine trees, according to Odwan.

Haddadin said that authorities are investigating the cause of the fire, noting that it is likely an act of arson.

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

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 official figures.

A total of 1,982 violations on forest lands have been registered since 2002, when the Agriculture Law was drafted with penalties on those who allocate, designate, sell or barter forest lands, according to the ministry.