Cesspits spread over Azraq as municipality is not linked to sewage network, threatening major underlying fresh water basin

By Hana Namrouqa – Jun 07,2018

AMMAN — The Jordan Environment Federation (JFU) has warned that a health and environment crisis is “looming” in Azraq municipality, which sits on a major basin supplying the capital with a substantial portion of its water needs.

Located some 115 kilometres east of Amman, Azraq is home to a population of 100,000 people, more than 20 per cent of whom are Syrian refugees living in the Azraq refugee camp, JFU President Omar Shoshan said, indicating that, until now, the municipality has not been linked to a sewage network.

“Cesspits spread all over Azraq because the municipality is not linked to a sewage network. Therefore, people dispose of wastewater in cesspits that they regularly empty,” Shoshan told The Jordan Times.

When cesspits are full, people call sewage tankers to pump out the wastewater, the president explained, claiming that drivers of sewage tankers dump the wastewater in open areas that are not designated for the disposal of wastewater.

“Dumping wastewater in undesignated areas is a major health and environment hazard and a violation of the law by itself. But, the fact that the wastewater is being dumped in open spaces in Azraq is even more of a major hazard to public health safety because it sits on a major fresh water basin,” Shoshan underlined.

There are empty pockets below and dumped wastewater can leak into the Azraq basin, which authorities pump around 17 million cubic metres of water to people in Amman and adjacent cities, he noted, stressing that the government has been asked to place linking Azraq municipality to the sewage network as one of its utmost priorities.

“The municipality is seeing expanding urbanisation. It is not acceptable that wastewater of Azraq residents and the refugees in the camp are dumped haphazardly. A major environment and health crisis is, therefore, looming unless authorities move, and move fast,” Shoshan noted.

An official at the Ministry of Water and Irrigation said that linking Azraq and other areas to the wastewater network is among the ministry’s priorities, which needs extensive financing.

“Many populated areas in Jordan are not linked to the wastewater network and the ministry has a strategy to address this issue in place. Jordan has received some 1.4 million Syrian refugees, which not only exacerbated Jordan’s water shortage, but also placed huge pressure on the sewage network and infrastructure, thus necessitating the expansion of the system,” the official said.

The official underlined that linking each household to the wastewater network costs more than JD3,000, highlighting that huge funding is necessary to expand wastewater linkage in Jordan.

Shoshan cited a study that estimated the cost of linking Azraq Municipality to the sewage network at JD18 million. He noted that the union and the Bremen Overseas Research and Development Association are installing decentralised sanitation plants to treat wastewater in Azraq.

“But this is not enough and it does not solve the problem,” Shoshan concluded.