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Activists call for reinstating independence of Forestry Department

By Hana Namrouqa - Feb 17,2013 - Last updated at Feb 17,2013

AMMAN Environmental activists on Sunday urged the government to reinstate the independence of the Ministry of Agriculture's Forestry Department to preserve the Kingdom's remaining forests.

The activists said that the condition of the country's forests is worsening due to continuous violations and recurrent years of drought, which led to the loss of thousands of dunums of woodlands over the past four decades.

Located in the Kamaliyeh neighbourhood in the west Amman suburb of Sweileh, the Forestry Department was an independent entity for half a century before becoming part of the Agriculture Ministry in 1973, according to its director, Mohammad Shorman.

The department is tasked with proposing policies and legislation that improve and protect forests, as well as increasing the country's green cover by producing and distributing saplings.

"The government must give the Forestry Department its administrative and financial independence to stop forests from further degradation if not reverse their worsening condition," Jordan Environmental Societies Union Spokesperson Omar Shoshan told The Jordan Times.

"The actual role of the Forestry Department should be scientific management of the forests to safeguard the biological diversity they host, but this a challenge because of its meagre budget," Shoshan added.

The conservationist noted that the current role of the Forestry Department is limited to issuing tickets to violators and illegal loggers.

Shorman said that the department is considered one of the Kingdom's oldest directorates, as it was set up during the Emirate of Transjordan.

"The department was established in 1922, when the first forestry law was drafted. Several strong pieces of legislation were drafted to protect forests in Jordan, and that was when the department enjoyed financial and administrative independence," he told The Jordan Times.

"The independence that the department enjoyed between the 1920s and 1970s not only allowed it to protect existing forests but also increase forest lands by up to 40 per cent," Shorman noted.

Illegal logging during winter, fires in summer and insufficient rain due to climate change are the main threats to Jordan’s shrinking green cover, estimated at less than 1 per cent of the Kingdom’s terrain, according to experts.
Shorman highlighted that forest-related laws and regulations need to be revised and amended, noting that the laws are outdated and have loopholes which give violators leeway.

Under environmental regulations, those who cut down forest trees without a licence face a three-month prison term, a JD100 fine for each tree chopped down from state-owned land and a JD50 fine for each one from private land. In addition, their equipment is confiscated.

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