By Mohammad Ghazal – Oct 29,2016

AMMAN — Construction is under way on an eco-project to grow vegetables, generate power form solar energy and produce freshwater in the Aqaba desert, the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA) said on Saturday.

“An agreement was signed on Thursday between ASEZA and the Sahara Forest Project to start the first phase of the scheme, which entails the establishment of a centre for innovation, competence building and research,” ASEZA Spokesperson Abdel Mahdi Katameen told The Jordan Times.

The centre will be a space for local training and innovation, and the Sahara Forest Project will cooperate closely with regional and international players to find good solutions, according to the project’s website.

Under the project, funded by the EU and Norway, a 50-megawatt solar energy plant will be built, as well as saltwater-based greenhouses and “evaporative hedges” to produce some 34,000 tonnes of vegetables.

Katameen said the scheme would create 800 jobs for Jordanians, adding that the first phase would be completed in six months.

The first phase of the project is expected to cost JD4 million.

Facilities to generate 10,000 litres of freshwater per day will also be built in the desert, according to the EU Facebook page.

ASEZA Chief Commissioner Nasser Shraideh said pipelines will be extended to pump water from the Red Sea to the project’s site, where desalination plants will produce fresh water.

The brine will be used to irrigate crops and increase the green cover in the area.

“ASEZA will provide all necessary support to the environment-friendly project, which will help stop desertification and create jobs,” Shraideh said in a statement.

Sissel Breie, Norway’s ambassador to Jordan, said the project is a sustainable and comprehensive solution to optimally utilise resources and stressed Oslo’s support for the scheme, according to the statement.