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Environment issues high on agendas of tickets, absent from programmes of individual candidates

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

AMMAN — Addressing environment pollution and poor waste management as well as applying better rainwater harvesting dominate the agendas of national tickets competing for next week’s parliamentary elections.

Agendas of the national lists feature some of Jordan’s “key water and environment issues”, while local constituency candidates on the other hand raise “clichéd slogans”, without any reference to water or environment problems.

Batir Wardam, an environmental researcher and activist, said that while agendas of some of the national tickets are integrated and show interest in water and environment issues, slogans of other candidates didn’t even touch on vital topics, whether political, economic or environmental.

Some national lists have experience in water and environment, Wardam said, highlighting that independent candidates did not raise environment- or water-related slogans.

National ticket candidates are competing nationwide for 27 seats out of the 150-House seats. Under the Elections Law, voters have two votes — one for a national ticket and another for a candidate on the local constituency.

Some of the national list candidates call for establishing an independent court which handles environment violations and replacing plans to establish a nuclear reactor with renewable energy projects, while others criticise Jordan’s signed water agreements with Israel and Syria, and call for amending them.

Bassam Abul Nasser, a candidate from the Centrist Islamic List, said the government should reconsider the applied rainwater harvesting techniques.

“There should be better exploitation of rainwater so as to make sure that every drop of rain is channelled into the country’s reservoirs and desert dams,” Abul Nasser told The Jordan Times.

Jordan is home to 10 major dams with a total capacity of 325 million cubic metres and scores of sand dams in the desert, which are used either for recharging aquifers or supplying farmers and cattle owners in the badia with water.

Abul Nasser said that the list’s agenda also calls for exploring underground water on the country’s northern and eastern borders.

“There are more than 150 wells in the north on Jordan’s border with Syria that the government can explore but doesn’t. Syria and Iraq are pumping water from joint aquifers with Jordan,” the candidate claimed, noting that the country is not exploiting its shared water resources.

He also highlighted that, “if elected, the list will work to amend the water annex in the 1994 Wadi Araba Peace Treaty with Israel”, claiming that it is unfair to Jordan’s water rights.

“We want the water annex of the peace treaty to be reconsidered because it is unjust. Jordan doesn’t always receive its full water share of 50 million cubic metres and the government is turning a blind eye,” Abul Nasser said.

Water theft and violations on networks is a major concern for several candidates, who said that the government is not doing enough to stop violations.

“There are constant and increasing violations in the water networks in Amman and across the country. Some people are not paying for the water and the government is not acting seriously to end this,” Abul Nasser said.

On the environment, he highlighted the importance of applying better management of electronic waste.

“There is no management of electronic waste in Jordan, which is a major problem,” he noted.

Improper disposal or processing of electronic waste causes serious health and pollution problems, as some electronic scrap components contain contaminants such as lead, cadmium, beryllium, mercury and brominated flame retardants, according to experts.

The candidate also said that the list will investigate rumours that nuclear waste of other countries is being shipped to Jordan and buried in the south and east of the country.

“In addition, the list opposes the construction of a nuclear reactor, because it will be close to residential areas and because of fears that Jordan will not be able to deal with any leakage or nuclear pollution,” Abul Nasser said.

Meanwhile, Salma Nems, from the Unified Front National List, said that sound mechanisms for collecting rainwater are absent, highlighting that Jordan is missing out on millions of cubic metres due to the absence of a proper drainage system.

“There should be ways to harvest torrential rain,” Nems said.

She underscored that the government should apply better water management instead of exploring new water resources.

“We should stop the waste of water and water loss before searching for new resources. In addition, some powerful people are illegally using potable water for agriculture, which is a form of corruption,” the candidate added.

Nems called for linking the conservation of nature and resources to economic growth, saying that the list supports eco-tourism to revive local communities across the country.

She added that the list will also support serious solid waste recycling projects, noting that studies indicate that they can create 30,000 new jobs while solving the waste collection problems.

Ibrahim Falahat, from the National Labour List, said that supporting the construction of the Red Sea-Dead Sea Water Conveyance Project is the list’s main water goal.

“Seeing the Red-Dead project come to life by securing the needed funds is very important,” Falahat said.

The Red-Dead project is part of international efforts to save the Dead Sea, which has been shrinking at the rate of one metre per year, largely due to the diversion of water from the Jordan River for agricultural and industrial use.

Initial plans for the Red-Dead project propose pumping one billion cubic metres of water annually from the Red Sea into the rapidly shrinking Dead Sea to stop its depletion.

Falahat noted that addressing air pollution is also a major goal for his list, claiming that many people are suffering from allergies and chronic diseases due to environment pollution.

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