Posted by: EcoPeace Middle East | July 29, 2020

Keeping the Dam Clean

EcoPeace Middle East, the Waterkeeper for the Jordan River, organized a cleanup event at the Ziqlab dam and stream, a tributary of the Jordan River located in the Sheikh Hussein area of the Northern Jordan Valley, with youth from the local community and various other areas in Jordan. The objective of the event was to increase awareness about the Jordan River and the history of its decline, and how it can be restored. This event was held in partnership with the National Youth Camp of the Good Water Neighbors program.

Students cleaning up the Ziglab dam

During the two-hour event, which was hosted at the Jordan EcoPark, participants from EcoPeace’s Youth Water Trustees and the local community were informed about with the national, regional and international efforts to save the River and EcoPeace’s partnership with Waterkeeper Alliance. Following these introductions, the participants traveled to the nearby Ziglab stream to clean up trash around it.

4432The students being informed about the history of the Jordan River.

To demonstrate the scale of the decline of the once “Mighty Jordan River”, the participants were taken on a tour downstream of the Ziglab stream. They saw with their own eyes how a stream, seventy-five meters wide and full of water in the past, had completely dried up. This image served to show the ecological damage that has happened on the entire length of the Jordan River and the need to restore and rehabilitate it.

The students being shown the dried up Ziglab Stream

After the cleanup and tour, the students were also shown a practical example of how groundwater contamination can be solved through a visit to the constructed wetland EcoPeace is building in the EcoPark. Groundwater contamination is caused by domestic cesspits and it represents a major issue in the Jordan Valley. Constructed wetlands are a form of low-cost decentralized wastewater treatment that can be applied throughout rural communities. EcoPeace’s goal will be to raise awareness about the effectiveness of constructed wetland and to work with local and central governments to build ones in Jordan Valley communities.

The students learning about the importance of constructed wetlands

Youth programs have always been a core part of EcoPeace’s programs. The challenges the region faces due to water scarcity, increasing populations and climate change can only be solved if our youth are educated and empowered to work together, regionally, nationally and internationally.

Waterkeeper Alliance is a global movement uniting more than 300 Waterkeeper groups around the world, focusing citizen action on issues that affect our waterways, from pollution to climate change. For more information please visit: www.waterkeeper.org


Written by: Fadi Kardan

Posted by: EcoPeace Middle East | July 28, 2020

EcoPeace Middle East and the Hindu Kush Himalayas

In the Spring of 2019, I was studying Environmental Policy at the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability and looking for ideas to form a thesis around. With a background in international relations, I had come to graduate school to understand conflict and governance from an environmental perspective, but was struggling to settle on a particular research topic. Fortunately, my advisor pointed me to a short video of EcoPeace’s Gidon Bromberg explaining the work the organization is focused on and his goals for the future. At that point, I knew I wanted to learn more. 

In a seemingly intractable conflict like the one between Israel and Palestine, could EcoPeace really use environmental peacebuilding to not only protect the environment but also create a foundation for future peace? I quickly contacted the staff at EcoPeace to find out if they would allow me to research the organization and if there was any particular topic that would be helpful and relevant to the organization’s goals. After a few conversations, it was determined that a comparative case study would help inform if and how the Program on Water Security could move forward in a place like Nepal and the Hindu Kush Himalayas. One organization, the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), had already connected with EcoPeace to learn more about their methods and how the model could be transferred to the Hindu Kush region, so we brought the research to ICIMOD’s attention as well. 

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For the specific research plan, I worked with my advisor at the University of Michigan to identify a research question that I could explore qualitatively. We were particularly interested in how each organization functions and how certain factors impact how each organization is able to progress toward its goals. An interview guide was developed that would allow me to explore the organizational, structural, and contextual factors that might influence the success of a potential transfer of EcoPeace’s model to the Hindu Kush Himalayas. The interview guide focused on the perspectives of the staff members at ICIMOD, not necessarily the public statements of the organization as a whole. 

To my surprise, ICIMOD offered to host me at their headquarters in Nepal so I would have an opportunity to perform my field work and conduct interviews in person. For five weeks in the Summer of 2019, I stayed near Kathmandu, Nepal as I interviewed staff members at ICIMOD who worked on issues related to transboundary landscape management in the Hindu Kush Himalayas. I had opportunities to learn more about the organization, the environmental issues, and the region as a whole while I was there.

Overall, the research compared 11 factors that could enable or constrain each organizations activities and progress. EcoPeace and ICIMOD are working within very different environmental conflicts and regions, but both organizations still could learn quite a bit from each other. The lessons that EcoPeace has learned in the Middle East could certainly help the Hindu Kush Himalayan region with a number of the existing environmental conflicts. More research is necessary to identify and refine particular points of entry for EcoPeace, but there appears to be a lot of potential for future collaboration. 

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While in Nepal, I explored the temples and palaces in Kathmandu and Lalitpur. The beautiful landscape of Nepal is only a fraction of the Hindu Kush Himalayas, though ICIMOD works within all eight member countries in the region to create transboundary agreements that will help protect the region’s ecosystems and natural resources. I learned so much from the staff at ICIMOD and was amazed by the incredible work being done. My field work in Nepal was an experience that I will never forget. 
Thank you to the staff at EcoPeace Middle East and ICIMOD for allowing me to explore their organizations, as well as my advisor at the University of Michigan, Dr. Julia Wondolleck for guiding me through the process. 


Written by: Andrew Light –2020 graduate of University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability –MS in Environmental Policy

EcoPeace’s Program on Water Security offers a model for regional peacebuilding to organizations located in shared water basins. The program builds the capacity of actors to help establish much-needed relationships of cooperation and trust at the community level on issues pertaining to water and the environment.

Posted by: EcoPeace Middle East | June 27, 2020

Can the EcoPeace Model Work in Ethiopia?

We are recent graduates of New York University’s Center for Global Affairs, studying peacebuilding and international development. Last fall as we approached our final capstone semester, we knew we wanted to build upon our prior experiences in the Horn of Africa. Having become acquainted with EcoPeace and its environmental peacebuilding model, we began to wonder whether this model could be adapted for use in the region to address issues of inter-ethnic conflict. The head of our peacebuilding program connected us with EcoPeace, and our capstone consultancy began.

EcoPeace has spent decades helping communities and governments in the Middle East cope with conflict and water insecurity, developing a highly-effective people-to-people model that stresses healthy interdependencies and mutual interests. The recently established Program on Water Security (PWS) connects EcoPeace’s experience in the Middle East with the needs of civil society organizations around the globe. Complementing government-to-government water diplomacy efforts, PWS seeks to advance local environmental peacebuilding initiatives by helping civil society organizations located in water-insecure regions develop their organizational capacity and advance security for their communities.

 

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Ethiopia is home to more than 80 ethnic groups and three predominant religions (Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity, Islam, and Protestant Christianity). Currently, Ethiopia is governed through a system of ethnic federalism, composed of nine regions representing the predominant ethnic groups and two administrative states. In the last century, the country has seen Italian occupation, the demise of its imperial monarchy, a 1974 coup leading to fourteen years under communist military rule, multiple internal and transborder conflicts, authoritarian rule, and great economic growth coupled with vast inequality.

Among other factors, environmental issues can often be conflict triggers. Ethiopia’s diverse landscape creates different climate zones and environmental issues across the country. Over the last half century, Ethiopia has experienced an increase in the frequency and severity of climate disasters that have had severe and sustained effects. Such issues have included drought, famine, and, in 2020, an unprecedented plague of locusts which have decimated crops throughout the Horn of Africa. These climate disasters increase instability as groups compete for resources and people are displaced from their homes. An increase in drought frequency has understandably correlated with an increase in conflict, especially among the pastoralist population. Drought conditions severely affect the viability of pastoralism, often resulting in near or complete herd death due to the shrinking of grazing land and scarcity of drinking water. Prolonged or repeated periods of drought have forced pastoralists towards sedentary farming lifestyles. As pastoralist groups settle into agricultural activities and communities, the demand on health, social, and infrastructure services increases.

Since Abiy Ahmed took office as Ethiopia’s prime minister in 2018 (and subsequently won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize), many reforms have opened the political space for dissenting and minority opinions. This loosening of restrictions has allowed more space for NGOs to develop and grow. Specifically, laws restricting NGOs from receiving assistance or funding from international sources have been repealed. In light of these circumstances, we reached out to multiple NGOs working in peacebuilding and development sectors to gauge interest in EcoPeace’s programs.

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Our plan was to travel to Ethiopia to meet with NGOs and other practitioners, presenting EcoPeace’s environmental peacebuilding model then conducting focus groups to learn how the model could be adapted for the Ethiopian context. Unfortunately, during our initial outreach to organizations, the COVID-19 virus began to spread and cause international travel restrictions, resulting in a suspension of much of our research. However, we were able to conduct Zoom meetings with representatives of two organizations working in different regions of Ethiopia. These representatives were very receptive to the model and provided us with constructive feedback on challenges it might face in the country. Further, they provided us with two specific areas where the model may be beneficial: The Awash National Park and the Ethiopian/Eritrean border in the Tigray region.

While more research and outreach is necessary before moving forward with potential partnerships in Ethiopia, our conversations led us to believe that such a program would be welcome, practical, and beneficial in addressing some of the inter-ethnic conflicts ongoing in the country. It is our strong recommendation that, upon the easing of travel and other restrictions related to COVID-19, this research resume.


Written by: Sarah Gibbs & Bryan Bintliff, 2020 graduates of NYU’s Center for Global Affairs, MS in Global Affairs program.

Posted by: EcoPeace Middle East | February 13, 2020

Holy Land Living Water

Holy Land Living Water was a week-long event conceived by UNITY EARTH to help raise awareness about the work of regional environmental peacebuilding organization EcoPeace Middle East, in particular on the ecological rehabilitation and sustainable development of the lower Jordan Valley. The event was presented in partnership with the United Religions Initiative and also celebrated UN World Interfaith Harmony Week, an annual celebration in the 1st week of February. An international delegation of almost 100, representing a myriad of countries, cultures, communities, faiths and philosophies, arrived in the Middle East in February 2020, for what would be a historic pilgrimage that included visits to sacred sites, music, ceremonies and ecological tours.

Saturday 1 February
The week-long program officially commenced in the evening as delegates shared a welcome dinner at their hotel in Jordan.

Sunday 2 February
Delegates visited Mount Nebo in the morning and after lunch participated in lively half day conference (‘Dead Sea Convergence’) on the importance of the Jordan River to Abrahamic religions and the environmental challenges it currently faces. The day culminated in a water ceremony on the Dead Sea where leaders were invited to share how their tradition understands the relationship humans have to water.

Monday 3 February
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he morning program brought all members together through an interfaith ceremony at the Al Maghtas Baptism Site on the Jordanian bank of the Jordan River. The prayers called for everyone present to remember the value of the holy waters at the Al Maghtas site—waters holy to generations past, generations present, and generations to come. Silence from the tour members conveyed the personal, emotional, and spiritual depth and breadth of the prayers’ effects on the group. Mira Michelle, founder of the Sacred Female Rising Institute, was one member of the tour held in rapture during the interfaith ceremony by the river. She reflected on visiting the site as part of the EcoPeace, Unity Earth, and United Religions Initiative tour, “It was rather special to go with a group who have their own ways to feel, to see, and to perceive the energy we call God. This was magical.”

Following the interfaith prayer, Kristin Hoffman, conscious musician and activist delegate on the tour, led the group to the river itself with a song. Her song remembered the role of water in prayer for all three Abrahamic religions by calling everyone to pray at the river together. Singing together, the tour members moved to the steps of the holy waters of the Jordan River for baptisms and prayers from faith leaders from Christian, Jewish, Muslim and indigenous traditions. The song on the Jordan bank paired in spirit with the cheering of groups seeking baptisms directly across the river on the Palestinian bank. Following this visit, EcoPeace staff led discussion on the demise of the Jordan River and the need to identify markers towards its rehabilitation, such as the reintroduction of the willow tree along its banks.

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Kristin Hoffmann leading the tour in song to the Jordan River from the Al Magtas baptism site. Photo Credit: Jon Ramer

Song continued to guide this day of the tour as the group departed from the baptismal site for lunch in a Jordanian town near the Abu Obeida Mosque. Through a lively lunch, reggae artist Patu Banton volunteered an impromptu performance of his work. As the visit to the baptism site was guided with joyous prayers blessing the river and asking for its blessings in return, lunch was a time for songs calling for peace, blessings, and a radical love for all living beings on Earth. We carried these songs for peace to a visit to the Abu Obeida Mosque in Jordan. We arrived in time for an afternoon call to prayer, when the men and women of the group separated for different experiences within the mosque area. Men from the tour entered the central hall, while women explored a smaller shrine and tomb to Abu Obeida. This visit ended our time in Jordan, and prepared the group to cross the river into Palestine and Israel.

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Inside the Abu Obeida Mosque with some tour members. Photo Credit: Jon Ramer

Tuesday 4 February 2020
At the beginning of the day we progressed from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, we started with reflections from spiritual leaders representing traditions from across the world. Phramaha Boonchuay Doojai, Thai Buddhist monk and chairman of the Thai Interfaith Foundation for Social Development, set the premise of using this day focused on Bethlehem and Jerusalem as an opportunity to develop his work in finding and communicating similarities between Christian and Buddhist traditions. Pixie Byrnes, a representative of the Eastern ranges of Australia, additionally contributed to the circular reflections to remind everyone of the importance of keeping in mind the sacred waters carried within us as we travel on this tour to holy sites in the Jordan Valley.

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Ben Bowler, Executive Director of Unity Earth, leading the morning circular reflections. Photo Credit: Jon Ramer

EcoPeace Palestinian Director, Nada Majdalani, and External Affairs Officer, Bashar Al Shawwa, focused the day on highlighting the ancient historical and cultural importance of the Jordan Valley region. They educated the group on the emergence and development of organized agriculture in the Jordan Valley and its importance as the food basket of the region and a place of high biodiversity. The beginning of the death of the Jordan River in the 20th century caused by the conflict and the restrictions imposed by the occupation, as was explained, impacted the region’s agricultural tradition and ability to support residents of the Valley. The cost of water for Palestinian residents and refugees in the area is the main challenge resulting from the weakening of the Jordan River, combined with restricted access to its waters and underground water resources, and further exacerbated by the impacts of climate change on the region.

We visited the Mount of Temptation first. The energy of excitement and thankfulness for the opportunity to visit a place central to the Christian faith was palpable, with tour members exchanging short embraces and blessings for each other on the line to the cable cars up to the Mount itself. Within the mountain, everyone had the opportunity to take a few moments of reflection in the cave representing the place where Christ refused the temptations of the Devil, as described by Luke and Matthew.

Phramaha Boonchuay Doojai found the time at the Mount of Temptation rewarding for his interfaith work between Christianity and Buddhism, and led a blessing chant in the cave. He reflected on similarities between the lives and teachings of Christ and Buddha, particularly regarding “the real nature of life, the real nature of the world…and being the teacher and great father of [Christian and Buddhist] religions.”

The tour progressed to the Church of the Nativity following the Mount of Temptation. We had the opportunity to meet with representatives of the Governor’s Office of Bethlehem outside the Church, who welcomed the interfaith tour and remained with us through the end of the afternoon. Following lunch, the tour presented the Governor’ representatives with a Peace Poll to stand in Bethlehem.

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Presentation of Peace Poll by Unity Earth, United Religions Initiative, and EcoPeace representatives to the Governor of Bethlehem. Photo Credit: Jon Ramer.

Wednesday 5 February 2020
The fifth day of the tour focused on visiting central holy places of the three Abrahamic religions. We viewed the Al Aqsa Mosque, Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall; before we passed on to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, we spent most of our time in the Davidson Archaeological Park near the Western Wall. Rev. Deborah Moldow led the group through an interfaith ceremony for the divine feminine in the park. One of the women who led an aspect of the interfaith prayers, Pooki Lee, director of the Gateway to Agape organization, reflected, “in that moment [during the divine feminine ceremony] I was feeling the pain of the Earth through the land where I was standing.” An Ho’ooponopono prayer was how Pooki Lee responded to the combination of pain felt from the land in the conflict-prone city of Jerusalem, and of recognizing the healing power of the divine feminine called on in the ceremony.

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Gathering together before the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Photo Credit: Erica Lynn Porta.

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Pooki Lee following her Ho’ooponopono prayer in the Jerusalem Archaeological Park. Photo Credit: Karin Lindeman-Boerer.

We moved from this prayerful space in the Archaeological Park to a meeting with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and representatives of the Ethiopian Orthodox community in the Old City. Two tour participants, United Religions Initiative to the United Nations, Ambassador Mussie Hailu, and Prince Ermise Hailessie of Ethiopia, joined the Jerusalem Ethiopian community in their comments to the group, emphasizing bring peace through interfaith harmony to the region. The Prince, Ambassador, and Fumi Stewart of Unity Earth presented a Peace Poll to this community. We passed from this meeting to collecting outside of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, before exiting the city for the day.

Song ended our time in the Old City. Grammy-nominated African roots artist and UN Goodwill Ambassador for Africa for UN Environment, Rocky Dawuni, led the tour members through a song reinforcing the importance of remembering the solemnity and importance of Jerusalem for the Christians, Jews and Muslims living in the Middle East; Rocky’s lyrics “I cannot forget you Jerusalem” called on the voices of both those in the tour and others passing on the street nearby the “I love Jerusalem” sign in front of Jaffa Gate.

We progressed from the Old City and Jerusalem to the Sea of Galilee that evening. Over dinner, EcoPeace Israel director, Gidon Bromberg, and Mayor of Jordan Valley Regional Council, Eidan Breenbaum, spoke on their respective works addressing pollution and water quality decline in the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee. In particular, the Mayor spoke at length about his desire on pairing his community with other cities globally through a sister-river program. Unity Earth closed the event with an award given to EcoPeace for their work achieved over these past 25 years.

Thursday 6 February 2020
The sixth day of the tour continued our song, now led by the women spiritual leaders on the tour. In pre-dawn light, volunteers from the tour gathered on the banks the Sea of Galilee wherein women led a globally-united water blessing ceremony, Healing Women~Healing Water. Women representing spiritual traditions from across the world—North and South America, Australia, East Asia, Europe, and the Middle East—brought holy waters from their homelands to be blessed together with waters from the Sea of Galilee. Song led by Native American spiritual traditions began the blessing of the waters, in the Sea and from abroad, and sought to heal the combined waters.

Following a song-led blessing of water at the Sea of Galilee, the tour traveled to Tel Megiddo to continue interfaith, spiritual blessings of the waters and the Earth. EcoPeace explained as we travelled about the toll of climate change in the Jordan Valley region: winter rains, normally beginning in November of each year, have been starting as late as January, and temperatures in the summer are rising beyond the already excessive heat common in the area. These factors combined threaten the agricultural productivity of the Valley.

The ceremony in Megiddo—the valley of Armageddon—expanded our blessings of global waters from the first ceremony, and expanded the blessing’s message from the Tel Megiddo Nature Park hills. Here, the healing and holy waters’ blessings combined with messages of hope, unity and a call for all nation-states to shift capital and resources away from the military-industrial complex and towards the protection and regeneration of the Earth and natural resources.

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Interfaith blessing at Megiddo. Photo Credit: Gary Christmas.

We moved on from the blessings at Tel Megiddo to meet with the Druze community in Isifiya where the Mayor, an Imam, Father and Rabbi spoke together. The mayor spoke to the group about the Druze community and their interest in promoting peaceful, interfaith interactions between communities in Israel and the Middle East in general. These messages for peace and harmony expanded on the final night of the group on the tour at the U-Nite concert in Haifa, held with the support of Haifa Municipality. In this concert, artists Kristin Hoffmann, Rocky Dawuni, Patu Banton, and others contributed songs and messages from across the world celebrating the peace and love the tour hoped to spread.

Friday 7 February
On the final day of the tour a closing ceremony was held at Beit Ha’Gefen Haifa. A tour of the Baha’i Gardens followed.


Written by: Erica-Lynn Porta 

Posted by: EcoPeace Middle East | January 29, 2020

EcoPeace Middle East Statement on the US Peace Proposal

 

The 25 year experience of EcoPeace is that Israeli/Palestinian peace can only be achieved through dialogue, negotiation and compromise. Unilateral actions will not advance peace. Annexation of the Jordan Valley or other areas of the West Bank will never lead to peace. On the contrary unilateralism through annexation will lead to further instability and tragedy not only in Palestine and Israel but also in Jordan and the broader region.

The Alliance for Middle East Peace, of which EcoPeace is a founding member, responded succinctly to the ‘US Peace proposal” as follows:

“Peace will not be achieved by grand statements or unilateral steps. It can be within reach only when majorities of Palestinians and Israelis are in agreement on how they will share this land. But it is not just about lines on a map. Any peace plan worth its name must address how Israelis and Palestinians will both be guaranteed the rights, security, and self-determination they are equally entitled to. These are the conditions necessary for societies to live at peace with their neighbors and themselves.”

As a regional environmental peacebuilding organization, EcoPeace will therefore once again double its efforts to promote a just peace for Palestine, Israel and the broader Middle East within the broad outlines of the Arab peace initiative / Clinton parameters. We will continue to focus on protecting our shared common ecological resources and the underlying principles that environment knows no borders and that attempts to draw unilateral lines that divide, build more walls and disengage, are destined to fail.

Please support us in this effort.

Over the past few months EcoPeace Middle East and the American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have been collaborating on a joint project with the purpose of finding alternatives to agricultural plastic mulch in the Jordan Valley and to improve the operation and safety of a dumpsite in Deir Alla. These collaborations culminated in two publications titled “Operations and Safety Plan for Deir Allah Municipal Dumpsite” and “Effects of Plastics in Agriculture in The Jordan Valley: Utility, Impact, And Alternative Approaches”. A workshop was held on September 3rd at the Crowne Plaza – Amman, to officially release those publications to the public.

The workshop was an important opportunity for all the relevant stakeholders, both on-ground and in the central government, to discuss the applicability of the guidelines and recommendations put forth in the documents. The keynote speakers for the event were the Henry Constantine from the US Embassy, Christina Mercurio from the EPA and Yana Abu Taleb, Director of EcoPeace Jordan. Participants included senior representation from Ministry of Environment, the Jordan Valley Authority, local municipalities from the Jordan Valley, and farmers.

 

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Representatives from the US Embassy and EPA

Plastic mulch is used in agriculture all around the world to decrease the evaporation of moisture in soil and to reduce the number of unwanted weeds that might pop up. Due to the fact that there is no recycling framework for it in the Jordan Valley, the only way to get rid of plastic mulch through burning. When burned, the mulch releases forty thousand times the amount of harmful gases and carcinogens into the air compared to diesel.  Moreover, the mulch used in Jordan is very thin and tends to tear after one season, leading to its ingestion by grazing animals and to greater environmental pollution.

Alternatives such as organic mulch and thicker plastic mulch (that can be used for more than one season) do exist but they are not as cost effective. This creates a dilemma for the cash-strapped farmers of the Jordan Valley who recognize the negative impacts of their current actions, but are reluctant to change their tried and true methods because it will affect their financial situation.  The farmers attending the workshop said that they would like to see realistic solutions that they can apply.

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Operation and Safety Round-table Discussion

One of the suggestions proposed to solve the issue is to create a model farm that showcases the alternatives so that the farmers can see their effectiveness with their own eyes. Another suggestion was to give farmers a one-time subsidy to try out the organic mulch, in the hope that they would permanently switch to it. Also, some recommended creating incentives that would encourage farmers to collect the mulch and send it to factories where they may be recycled. It was decided that further meetings will need to take place to see if any or all of these suggestions are applicable.

The Deir Alla dumpsite presented a big challenge to the project team due its lack of resources and the experience at its disposal. Even though turning the dumpsite into a state-of-the-art landfill is currently impossible, the project team saw that the workers could implement many changes to improve the site. A few examples include controlling the type of waste entering the dumpsite, collecting data on the waste entering the site, and detailing the dangers and emergencies that might occur. In addition, the workers were provided with safety gear such as high visibility vests, gloves, boots and hardhats.

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Plastic Mulch Round-table Discussion

There is a lot of potential for the Deir Alla dumpsite to act as a model that other dumpsites in Jordan can reference to implement similar operational improvements. The site manager and workers are enthusiastic about the change to their work environment and they are devoted improving continuously improving the site. Furthermore, the guidelines will be reviewed periodically based on the feedback of the workers to see if any of them are not realistic or applicable.

EcoPeace would like to thank all the farmers, the dumpsite workers, the municipalities and the ministries for their involvement and for their excellent feedback. Also, EcoPeace would like to thank the US State Department and the US Embassy in Jordan for their support of the project and the workshop. There will be follow up on all the suggestions and comments given and there is a strong commitment from the stakeholders to encourage the environmentally friendly use of plastic mulch and assisting in the proper implementation of operational and safety measures in the Deir Alla dumpsite.

To access the publications and read more about the project please click the link below:

http://ecopeaceme.org/projects/sustainabilitiy/


Contributed by: Fadi Kardan – EcoPeace Middle East – Jordan

Posted by: EcoPeace Middle East | June 9, 2019

Deir Alla is Going Green!

The Eastern Jordan Valley is home to over 650,000 people, most of whom are spread out along the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. The Deir Alla municipality is an important but extremely underdeveloped community in the valley which is home to around sixty-five thousand people. Like much of the Jordan Valley, Deir Alla suffers from solid waste pollution, improper solid waste management, extremely high electricity costs which eat up a lot of its budget and extremely limited wastewater treatment infrastructure.

Mustapha Al Shati, the current mayor of Deir Alla, is striving towards a greener and more sustainable future for his community. His objective is to create more avenues of cooperation with investors and organizations such as the GIZ and EcoPeace Middle East to provide the basic services that his constituents need.

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Mayor Shati (Center) Taking Part in a Local Clean-Up Initiative

Three important projects are in the works to kickstart Deir Alla’s transformation into a greener city under Mayor Shati’s leadership, and they are: The implementation of a solid waste management program, the installation of a solar farm, and the rehabilitation and improvement of the Tal al Mantah wastewater treatment plant. A common theme of these projects is that by advancing solutions to the fore mentioned issues, the high operational costs that the municipality has to deal with can be significantly reduced, creating greater budgetary flexibility to reinvest in improving the community.

These three projects represent major strides for Deir Alla to become environmentally sustainable and to improve the locals’ quality of life. Furthermore, they show that there is concrete national and international effort to sustainably develop the Jordan Valley, which is home to the poorest communities in Jordan.

This article will highlight the various aspects of each project and its goals:

Solid Waste Management Project

Widespread littering and improper waste disposal from citizens and business owners, an unhealthy dumpsite, and poor waste collection and management infrastructure are major challenges that Deir Alla is facing in its solid waste sector. The municipality aims to tackle these issues by executing a comprehensive solid waste management (SWM) strategy.

Awareness campaigns will be used to engage the community to cut down on littering and improper waste disposal. The campaign officials will distribute brochures, posters, marked recycling bins, and in some cases, bins for organic waste to shops and public areas to encourage people to recycle. The community will be further engaged through radio shows as well as educational trips for students that demonstrate the advantages and importance of SWM. Furthermore, the municipality will start to strictly enforce anti-littering laws and incur fines on citizens and business who violate those laws. To balance out the stricter enforcement, an incentives program will be created for people and businesses who sort their waste.

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Deir Alla’s Solid Waste Sorting Facility

The municipality, to upgrade its poor waste management infrastructure, will make its garbage trucks’ routes more efficient and establish a division for advanced SWM. By creating dedicated trucks routes that only go to homes or industrial areas or farms and studying those routes to make them more efficient, the SWM administrators can transfer waste to be sorted and recycled extremely effectively.

To begin establishing a division for advanced SWM, the municipality will be building a solid waste sorting plant in cooperation with the GIZ, as well as taking over an out-of-commission composting factory. By building a sorting plant, Deir Alla can collect and sell recyclable materials thereby reducing amount of waste heading to the dumpsite. In addition, the composting factory can make good use of the municipality’s organic waste, but purchasing trucks specialized in the collection of organic waste is what is needed to be done initially.

The final step needed to upgrade the municipality’s waste infrastructure is to create a properly managed landfill. Currently, the municipality uses a dumpsite with no measures to insulate the waste from the rest of the soil, which allows leachate percolation and groundwater subsurface pollution to occur. The only sorting done on site is by scavengers who are not sanctioned by the government.

In order to start building a landfill, Deir Alla has collaborated with EcoPeace Middle East, the American EPA and the German municipality of Jenna. Each of these organizations has contributed in their own way to the project: EcoPeace, a non-profit which has been active in the Jordan valley for the past 20 years, has created a pre-feasibility study on the creation of a landfill, Jenna municipality trained Deir Alla’s waste management employees on waste sorting and the EPA is developing an operation and safety plan for the landfill, creating pilots with several farms on the best practices for using plastic mulch and setting up a ‘green communities” website.

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The Deir Alla Dumpsite

The municipality has highlighted that this project will have a highly positive effect on the community. Reducing pollution has the benefit of improving public health and making public spaces more visually appealing. To add to that, attracting larger investments in the recycling sector is an opportunity which should not be overlooked. A good example of this is the potential for the compost factory to be expanded to include a biogas generation unit which can create jobs for locals and be source of income for Deir Alla.

The Sustainable Energy and Economic Development Project

Power generation is one of the Jordanian government’s biggest expenditures. As the responsible entity for many buildings in the area, the Deir Alla municipality’s yearly electricity bill runs up to over 350,000 JD. These high electricity costs hinder the municipality from creating development projects or improving its services to the citizens.

The Sustainable Energy and Economic Development Project, signed in March of 2019, will be managed by Cowater Sogema with funds from the Canadian development fund and the JREEEF. Its objective is to install a 950-kW solar farm on lands provided by Deir Alla. By installing this solar farm, the municipality will mitigate the high cost of its electricity bill, and allow the reallocation of part of those funds to be used for the development of the community. Moreover, the municipality plans to continually reinvest the other portion of the savings into maintenance or expansion of the solar farm and to replace the old streetlights with energy saving LEDs.

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Mayor Shati (seated-right) signing the solar power agreement with the Jordanian Prime Minister Omar Razzaz standing behind him.

Improving public awareness and transparency has become very crucial at this stage. The economic situation in Jordan has bred a sense of mistrust towards public institutions, so acting in parallel to the construction of the solar farm, the municipality will organize public awareness events about the project to increase governmental transparency and share the municipality’s vision on improving services. Holding these public meetings, listening to suggestions and concerns, and showcasing the ongoing initiatives to provide better services will start to instill greater understanding between Jordanians and their representatives.

The Rehabilitation and Improvement of The Tal Al Mantah Wastewater Treatment Plan

The Tal al Mantah plant, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Water Authority of Jordan (WAJ), is of high importance to the municipality of Deir Alla. It is the only domestic wastewater treatment plant in the area, one of the two treatment plants in all of the Jordan Valley, and the only option for treating the municipality’s domestic sewage. After years of neglect, the treatment plant has become rundown with many pieces of equipment needing maintenance or replacement. The mayor has expressed his concern about the plant because the water flowing out of the treatment plant does not fall within Jordanian standards, has polluted the environment and has caused several fires due to the lack of upkeep of the reed beds at the end of the treatment process which dry out during the summer.

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The Entrance to the Tal al Mantah Wastewater Treatment Plant

EcoPeace Middle East is working on signing an agreement with WAJ to improve operating conditions at the Tal al Mantah plant. Its objectives are to install solar panels to supply the treatment plant with 90% of its yearly energy needs, to purchase water quality testing devices, and to conduct educational tours to the plant to address the lack of awareness regarding water treatment and reuse.

By installing solar panels, the treatment plant will have the burden of its high electricity costs lifted, allowing WAJ to shift the budget to the maintenance and upkeep of the plant’s equipment. Improving the operation of the plant will increase the quality of the treated effluent reducing the pollution in the area. In addition, the water quality testing devices will allow the plant operators to accurately determine whether the incoming water is domestic or industrial when previously they relied on visual and olfactory inspection. This allowed some unsuitable wastewater to enter and damage the equipment.

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Two sludge thickeners in need of repair

There is much to be gained by improving communication and coordination between the central and local levels of government and this project is a good example of this. Despite the fact that the treatment plant does not fall under the jurisdiction of Deir Alla, the mayor still plans to follow up on its rehabilitation with EcoPeace and WAJ. In addition, this project will show that fostering cooperation between various governmental institutions will improve services provided to the citizens of Jordan.

Decentralization, Sustainability and the Ever-Present Deficit

Jordan’s decentralization initiative represents a great opportunity for local governments to take the reins and become empowered to work more closely with their constituents. These three projects show that sustainability and green practices can provide economical benefits while protecting the environment at the same time. Jordan’s economy is still in great need of development, but the advent of more affordable sustainable technologies represents an opportunity to improve the Jordan Valley’s standard of living without sacrificing the environment.

Another important concept that Jordanians need to keep in mind is the link between water and energy. A double whammy of both severe water scarcity and the high pumping costs puts Jordan in a tough spot. The projects mentioned in this article showed that installing solar panels in Jordan (one of the world’s sunniest countries) can be a huge opportunity for cash-strapped governmental organizations, but even more can be done.

Utilizing solar power to help expand the use of water conservation and reuse technologies is the path that Jordan should take to alleviate its water and energy issues. A pilot project has showcased one way to do that through the installation of solar panels and a greywater filtration system at the Abu Obaidah Shrine, a large mosque in Deir Alla. The grey water system, which was funded by the GIZ, is powered through solar energy and filters and cleans the water used by the worshipers during ablution so it can be reused in watering trees. This simple project shows that smaller decentralized solutions can be very useful in the absence of proper infrastructure.

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Some of the trees watered using treated greywater in the Abu Obaidah shrine

In the coming years, Jordanians hope that their country’s decentralization initiatives will put more power back in their hands and allow their local communities to flourish. Deir Alla’s actions go hand in hand with Jordan’s concept of decentralization and its continued planning and sustained efforts to improve its services shows that it is model for the rest of the Jordan valley. There are many opportunities to foster both sustainable and economic development in the Valley and by working together, the local and central governments, civil society and international donor organizations can seize those opportunities for the betterment of the underdeveloped communities in the valley.


Contributed by: Fadi Kardan – EcoPeace Middle East – Jordan

Photos of the Mayor and the Sorting Facility are courtesy of the Deir Alla Municipality. All other photos are by EcoPeace.

Posted by: EcoPeace Middle East | April 11, 2019

Climate March 2019

yuval.jpgOn the 29th of March 2019, EcoPeace staff participated in the Climate March, the largest environmental event in Israel organized by the municipality of Tel Aviv-Jaffa and a group of major Israeli environmental organizations. Early in the morning, EcoPeace staff ran a booth in Meir Park to raise awareness about the effects of climate change on the MENA region, the necessity of a trans-boundary cooperation with regards to water issues, and to inform the public about the numerous projects organized by EcoPeace to achieve this goal. Amy and Yuval, two members from EcoPeace’s Tel Aviv office, shared EcoPeace’s values of peace, cooperation and respect of nature. Then, Sarah Henkel, a research assistant and I, an intern at the Tel Aviv office, joined the voices of thousands of activists, students, families, schools and artists and marched to Kiryat Hamemshala to ask for concrete actions from the Israeli government. More than 4, 000 people from all over the country protested and carried banners with slogans like “We want clean air”, “Climate Change knows no borders “, and “Water knows no borders”.

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When I arrived at Meir park, I was really impressed to see so many environmental organizations such as Green Course, Zalul, Greenpeace, and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel gathering their force to ask for climate justice and the inclusion of the environmental protection in the political agenda. At a time of political election, it is all the more regrettable to notice that only very few parties decided to tackle environmental issues and include concrete measures in favour of the protection of the environment.

Yet, the climate crisis is a real and urgent issue that implies immediate actions, especially in our region. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) identified the MENA region as a climate change hot spot due to its natural water scarcity, low levels of socio-ecological resilience, social tensions and political conflicts, and ongoing immigration crisis. According to the last report published by EcoPeace (available at http://www.ecopeaceme.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/climate-change-web.pdf ), climate change will threaten regional security, exacerbate water stress and have numerous negative impacts regarding the environment and the socio-economic situation of the Middle East.

Even though the government does not pay enough attention to this crisis, some more local entities, like cities, seem to be more dedicated. Co-organized by the Environment and Sustainability authority of Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality, this march was the opportunity for the city to affirm its strong commitment to take bold climate actions. In 2017, Tel Aviv-Jaffa has joined the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, together with more than 90 other cities, to ensure that its strategic urban transformation will follow a sustainable path and to help achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. Indeed, Israel ratified the Climate Agreement in November 2016 and adopted a commitment to reduce by 2030 per capita greenhouse gas emissions to 26% below the 2005 level (source: Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection, http://www.sviva.gov.il/).

3   The following Friday, the Israeli civil society also rallied to the movement happening all over the world, following the Climate marches that occurred in Paris and Montreal during March 2019. The cultural diversity of Israel is a powerful symbol to reflect the international dimension of the climate crisis. Coming from France, I marched with Sarah, from Germany, and friends from Brazil, the United States and the Netherlands. We could hear people speaking in Hebrew, Arabic, English, French or Portuguese on the streets. Apparently, climate action has no cultural borders! I was also particularly thrilled by the major presence of women during the rally. Sarah told me “Look at all the women using megaphones and asking for climate justice!” According to the UN, Climate Action needs women, especially because climate change has a greater impact on the most vulnerable parts of the population, especially women. Ensuring the participation of women and strengthening their leadership in the environmental field represent an essential way to implement effective climate solutions and build climate resilience (source: https://unfccc.int/news/5-reasons-why-climate-action-needs-women).  In a joyful atmosphere, Sarah and I marched along with these women, surrounded by students, teenagers and children. People from all generations, from all ages, were present to ask for a structural change in our relation with nature:  “Vote to protect our planet!”

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Contributed by: Naomie Lecard – EcoPeace Intern

Posted by: EcoPeace Middle East | April 2, 2019

Ceremony to Honor Individuals that Aided Suffering Refugees

Sheikh Hussien, North Jordan (March 28th, 2019) – The Italian Embassy in Jordan, Gariwo, EcoPeace Middle East and the Governor of the North Shuna Directorate, honored two individuals, a Jordanian and an Italian, who have rescued and aided in reducing the suffering of refugees. The ceremony took place in the Sharhabiel bin Hassnah EcoPark.

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From Left to Right:  Rakan Al Qadi, Vito Fiorino, Yana Abu Taleb, Jehad Mattar, and Manuela Rippo

Major General Jehad Mattar was greatly involved in improving the humanitarian conditions of thousands of Syrian refugees in Jordan. His work includes overseeing the implementation of projects that improved the living conditions and infrastructure in the refugee camps and surrounding areas, creating a projects database related to the camps and surrounding areas, and developing national plans to respond to all refugee issues, including security, voluntary repatriation, residence, resettlement and humanitarian services.

Vito Fiorino, a carpenter and fisherman, saved the lives of 47 drowning migrants during one of the worst tragedies on to occur on the Mediterranean Sea where hundreds of migrants lost their lives. His brave actions allowed the refugees to survive safely and migrate to Northern Europe. Despite the fact that the refugees live far away, they visit him every year on the anniversary of this event, where they call him Papa. Fiorino has never stopped calling for major institutions to be more committed in solving the refugee crisis in Italy.

To start off the ceremony, EcoPeace’s Jordanian director Yana Abu Taleb, the governor of the North Shuna Directorate Rakan al Qadi, and Manuela Rippo from Gariwo spoke about the honoree’s work. Following that Mr. Jehad and Mr. Vito spoke about their unique experiences working with and rescuing refugees and migrants.

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After the speeches, the honorees had their names inscribed in stone and a tree planted in their honor as part of a ceremony to honor their important work.  The stones were placed in the EcoPark’s “Garden of the Righteous” which was founded by Gariwo and the Italian Embassy in 2017 to honor the following important figures:  Wasfi Al Tal and Moath Al Kassasbah, Rox bin Al Azizi, Haifa’a Al Bashir, Zaha Jarnadaneh Manko, Anis Mansour Muasher and Ismail Khader. To cap off the event, the honorees and other participants were treated to lunch and were given a tour of the EcoPark.

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Mr. Jehad Planting His Tree

Gariwo is an acronym for “Gardens of the Righteous Worldwide”, and it is a non-profit based in Milan that was founded in 1999. Gariwo created the “Gardens of the Righteous” initiative to heighten awareness and interest in the figures and the tales of the righteous women and men who fought and are still fighting in defense of human dignity all around the world. They established the European Day of the Righteous on March 6th after approval from the European Parliament.


Contributed by: Fadi Kardan – EcoPeace Middle East – Jordan

From the 15th to the 16th of January, EcoPeace Jordan hosted representatives from the Global Nature Fund (GNF). The GNF are EcoPeace’s German counterpart in the BMZ and Wilo Foundation funded project to install solar panels at the Tal al Mantah wastewater treatment plant and to create a green filter/constructed wetland at the SHE Park.

The visit started with a meeting at EcoPeace Jordan’s office. During this meeting we discussed the general progress of the project as well as future avenues for cooperation.

image001Following this meeting, the GNF were given a tour of the Tal al Mantah treatment plant. They were able to see, in person, the many issues facing the plant as well as hear the history of the plant and listen to the operators’ suggestions to improve its functionality. During the tour, several tankers were being emptied into the plant so we invited one of the tanker drivers to speak to the GNF and give his opinion on the status of the plant and how its operation affects his livelihood.

After this EcoPeace and the GNF took part in a stakeholder meeting with the Mayors ofimg_3293 Deir Alla, Pella, their heads of engineering, representatives from Water Authority of Jordan, a representative Jordan Valley Authority and a representative from the local civil society. This meeting was organized to inform these local stakeholders about the project. We discussed the goals of the project, such as how the GNF and the German government would want to make the treatment plant a model for best practice in Jordan, and how the Green Filter can be used as a decentralized and cost-effective complement to traditional wastewater treatment facilities.

At the conclusion of the meeting the stakeholders showed a great interest in the application of Green Filters in the Jordan valley and expressed their unanimous support and cooperation regarding our project. The visit concluded with a second tour of the Tal al Mantah wastewater treatment plant that included the stakeholders where they could understand the difficulties that the operators are trying to overcome while running it.

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Contributed by Fadi Kardan, EcoPeace Middle East -Jordan.

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