By Hana Namrouqa – Mar 18,2017

AMMAN — The Jordanian Federation for Environmental NGOs on Saturday condemned the chopping down of centennial oak trees in the Bader Al Jadidah district in west Amman.

The federation said that the Agriculture Ministry should have monitored the process to prevent the gradual elimination of oak forests in Jordan.

“The ministry should have obliged the owner of the land to safely uproot and replant the oak trees in another location, instead of cutting them down and gradually wiping out the population of oak trees from the country,” the federation’s President Omar Shoshan told The Jordan Times.

The federation has sent letters to the relevant ministries and entities urging them to stop the chopping down of oak trees in Bader Al Jadidah, which is rich with oak trees and is locally known as the “oak village”.

“The ministry should be more decisive when implementing its own regulations,” Shoshan said, indicating that the private plot of land where the oak trees were felled is adjacent to state-owned forestry land.

“A whole ecosystem has been disrupted in the process,” he highlighted.

Ministry Spokesperson Nimer Haddadin confirmed that oak trees have been cut down in Bader Al Jadidah district, indicating that the trees were chopped down on private property for the establishment of a private school.

“A technical committee from the ministry inspected the site and allowed the investor to cut down twelve trees. The procedure is legal, as the investor has obtained a licence to build a school,” Haddadin told The Jordan Times.

Arguing that relocating and planting the oak trees elsewhere was infeasible, Haddadin highlighted that oak trees’ chances of survival after being uprooting are very slim.

“The ministry tried to minimise the damage to the trees as much as possible,” Haddadin highlighted.

In March last year, a new regulation, listing the names of centennial, rare, wild, endangered trees and plants and banning their felling, went into force after being, issued in the Official Gazette. Under Article 3 of the new regulation, published in the Official Gazette on March 31, trees including the Aleppo pine aged over 200 years, deciduous oaks aged over 350 years, oaks aged more than 300 years and pistacias aged over 150 years are all categorised as centennial forest trees whose felling or uprooting is prohibited, whether found in forest, treasury or private lands.

The new regulation was issued as part of Appendix A of Article 34 of the Agriculture Law No. 13 of the year 2015 and its amendments.

Article 5 of the new regulation stipulates that cutting down any rare, centennial or wild plant or tree is penalised in accordance with Appendix D of Article 34 of the Agriculture Law No. 13 for the year 2015 and its amendments.

Forests in Jordan constitute less than 1 per cent of the country’s total area of 89,342 square kilometres, making the Kingdom among the poorest countries worldwide in terms of forest cover, since the internationally accepted average of land covered by forests stands at 15 per cent of the total area.

Forestry land 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.