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Authorities raising awareness as picnicking season starts

By Hana Namrouqa - Feb 28,2016 - Last updated at Feb 28,2016

The Agriculture Ministry is urging picnickers to put out fires properly to avoid damaging forests (Petra file photo)

AMMAN — With the weather starting to warm up, authorities on Sunday urged picnickers to avoid lighting fires at forests.

"Trees easily catch fire because they are surrounded by dry bushes and broken branches, in addition to the fact that resin makes trees easily flammable," Agriculture Ministry Spokesperson Nimer Haddadin told The Jordan Times.

Stressing that the majority of wild fires are started by illegal loggers, he warned that picnickers' negligence to properly put out the fires they start for barbeque is also responsible for the destruction of hundreds of centennial forest trees every year.

"We won't be able to ban picnickers from lighting fires at forests; therefore, we are asking them to at least make sure they put them out properly," Haddadin noted.

During sunny and warm weekends, rangers of the ministry's Forestry Department will increase patrol over popular picnicking sites, the government official said.

"The rangers will also approach picnickers to raise their awareness on the dangers of lighting fires at forest areas and also educate them on the right way to put out fires," Haddadin noted.

He urged picnickers to completely extinguish fires before departure, calling on them to pour water over the fire, turn wood and coals over to wet all sides and all remaining ash and to spread soil onto the fire site and mix.

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.

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

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 the ministry's figures.

 

New regulations are now being drafted to disallow issuing commuted sentences to those involved in forest violations, according to the ministry.

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