Posted by: EcoPeace Middle East | March 4, 2013

March 2013 – Friends of the Earth Middle East – Environmental Peacemaking Newsletter

Regional NGO Master Plan for the Lower Jordan River Valley Inception Report – Released Jan 2

Regional NGO Master Plan for the Lower Jordan River Valley Basin

This Inception Report, issued by Royal HaskoningDHV (RHDHV) in partnership with CORE Associates (Palestine), MASAR (Jordan) and DHVMED (Israel) on behalf of FoEME and its partners, provides a detailed overview of the project to develop the Regional NGO Master Plan for the Lower Jordan River Valley.

The report includes detailed descriptions on the project’s objectives and outputs, expert team, scope of work, background work to date, data collection, workplan, public consultation process and more.

This publication, as part of the Regional NGO Master Plan (SWIM-JR) Project, is supported by the European Union’s Sustainable Water Integrated Management (SWIM) Programme.

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Cross border Eco-Tourism Tour

Cross Border Eco-Tourism Tour

Cross Border Eco-Tourism Tour

On February 5 & 6, a cross-border eco-tourism workshop took place within the framework of FoEME’s Good Water Neighbors Project. 25 Palestinians from various communities in which FoEME is active, travelled to the Mate Yehuda Regional Council area and visited various eco-tourism facilities, with the aim of developing an understanding of the opportunities and challenges faced by historically agricultural communities trying to develop alternate income opportunities and promoting local resources to offer tourists accommodation, recreational and food services.

Cross Border Eco-Tourism Tour

Cross Border Eco-Tourism Tour

Among the facilities visited was the Essene Farm ecological health resort, the Kakadu art and design gallery, Nissim Levy’s sculptural gallery, the Shvil Ezim goat farm, dairy and restaurant, Vertigo eco-art village, the Yehudah Mountains farm, Mony Winery and Beit Jamal Monastery. Participants were warmly welcomed by the entrepreneurs at all the different venues and given guidance and inspiration in developing their own such enterprises. A panel was held at which the head of the Tourism Department of the Regional Council, and the head of the Association for Local Tourism Operators provided information on the development of local tourism and the ways in which local government can support and nurture these kind of initiatives. Participants observed that the strength of cooperation was also an important factor in the success of local tourism in Mate Yehuda. And they were amazed at the potential for “making something out of nothing”.

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Cross Border Emek Hefer / West Nablus Reciprocal Study Tour

Cross Border Emek Hefer/ West Nablus Reciprocal Study Tour

Cross Border Emek Hefer/ West Nablus Reciprocal Study Tour

On 24th February, FoEME facilitated a cross border Study Tour to Emek Hefer for a delegation from the Municipality of Nablus, with a focus on waste water treatment practices in the Emek Hefer Regional Council. This was the second in a series of recent exchange visits, the first of which was to the West Nablus WWTP last month. The Deputy Mayor of Emek Hefer welcomed the delegation at the first stop of the tour, Yad Hanna, and along with the plant manager Eyal Amrami, provided information about the plant operations. They highlighted also the challenges they face and the necessity to cooperate with their neighbors in Palestine in tackling these challenges. In addition to this, the participants visited an ecological farm to learn from the experience on how to develop and operate a “green” initiative.

Cross Border Emek Hefer/ West Nablus Reciprocal Study Tour

Cross Border Emek Hefer/ West Nablus Reciprocal Study Tour

Thereafter the program continued with a visit to the Tnuvot WWTP where participants received an explanation from the plant manager and FoEME activist / wastewater treatment expert Arnon Goren. At the end of the meeting, a discussion was facilitated about possible areas of cooperation between the two municipalities, most specifically about organizing yet another cross border Study Tour in April.

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Carbon Offsetting and Wetland Protection in our SHE EcoPark, Jordan

Friends of the Earth Middle East together with the CarboWet Foundation of The Netherlands will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on March 22nd  2013. The MoU details the cooperation between the two organizations to offer carbon offsetting in the Sharhabil bin Hassneh Eco Park in the Jordan Valley.

SaafConsult BV

SaafConsult BV

The CW/FoEME Carbon Offsetting Mechanism (CW/FoEME.COM) is available for public and private organizations from all countries. The first company that will donate funds to the mechanisms to offset its carbon emissions will be SaafConsult B.V. of The Netherlands. Funds will be used for afforestation and reforestation as well as broader watershed protection. This is a unique opportunity for organizations that take carbon offset seriously, and we invite all to contribute to this work. For more information please contact asultan@foeme.org or carbowet@gmail.com.

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Jordan Valley Bazaar

Support Women Bazaar

Support Women Bazaar

On February 16th, the Good Water Neighbors project held a Bazaar at the Sharhabil bin Hassneh EcoPark in Jordan. The aim of the Bazaar was to showcase the handicrafts created by women of the Jordan Valley, to give them an opportunity to promote their products, and raise awareness of the water and environmental issues by offering tours of the surrounding area. With the weather on our side, approximately 400 people from different sectors of society attended the Bazaar throughout the day.

Support Women Bazaar

Support Women Bazaar

FoEME was honored to have Member of Parliament Ms. Fatima Abu Abta open the event, giving warm welcoming words, explaining the obstacles these women face, expressing her understanding of their situation and calling on participants to show their support. The bazaar was successful on all levels; participants enjoyed their time at the EcoPark, families with children learned what the Park has to offer regarding environmental awareness, all the while serving a good cause. A fun Q&A game was played that engaged many of the participants in figuring out the answers to questions about water, the environment, FoEME and the EcoPark.  Click here for a beautiful set of photos of the event and press coverage from the Jordan Times.

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Balkan Forum on Regional Cooperation – Feb 7-9

The Balkan Forum on Regional Collaboration, organized by the Rockefellers Brothers Fund, recognizes that there is now a unique opportunity to create a new narrative for the Balkans, given the aspiration of Western Balkan countries to join the European Union, and the many people and institutions in the region that are committed to fostering economic development through regional collaboration. The Forum reflects the vision and desire of citizens of the region for economic progress and regional collaboration.

From the Forum

From the Forum

Over 50 leaders from the Balkans participated in this year’s Forum as well as several representatives of other regional models. FoEME Israeli Director was invited to share experiences of our environmental peacemaking work, our “Good Water Neighbors” project and in general, our “top-down” and “bottom up” model.  Participants were very interested, citing that this could indeed be relevant to the Balkans.  FoEME will continue to share its experience in other conflict zones around the world.

The “Good Water Neighbors” project is funded by USAID’s Conflict Management and Mitigation program, the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), the European Union’s Partnership for Peace program and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

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Auja EcoCenter

2012 Guidelines for Water Reuse

2012 Guidelines for Water Reuse

FoEME is proud to report that this month the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency released its 2012 Guidelines for Water Reuse, highlighting global best practices and featuring FoEME’s community-led Water Reuse Projects at our Auja EcoCenter. (Appendix E-88 / page 602)

The Auja Center’s model greywater reuse system treats greywater generated by the guest house and center’s kitchen and bathroom sinks and showers for reuse in irrigating trees in the center’s grounds.  The model system is one of the center’s learning stations which educate the thousands of visitors to the center about domestic and agricultural water saving techniques.

Ms. Margareta Alstrom,  Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations along with Eng. Nader Al Khatib, FoEME's Palestinian Director

Ms. Margareta Alstrom, Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations along with Eng. Nader Al Khatib, FoEME’s Palestinian Director

Also this month, the Auja EcoCenter was honored to receive a special guest; Ms. Margareta Alstrom, Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Disaster Reduction, who came to learn about the first seismic monitoring station in the West Bank, installed at the Auja EcoCenter.  Looking out from the Center’s rooftop overview, she also received explanations about the degradation of the Dead Sea and the Jordan River, FoEME’s rehabilitation efforts, and the potential benefits of regional cooperation.

Very pleased with the visit, she said that the establishment of an earthquake observatory center here, and the other environmental activities provided at the center, deserve international attention.  Read press coverage of this visit in this Maan News article and this QudsNet article

The Auja Environmental Education Center is supported by the Drosos Foundation

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FoEME NGO Briefing and World Bank Public Hearings on Red Dead Canal  

An Interview with Eng. Munqeth Mehyar, FoEME’s Jordanian Director

As reported in last month’s newsletter, FoEME is in disagreement with the Draft Feasibility Report of the World Bank’s study on the ‘Red Dead Canal’. FoEME believes that the Feasibility Report’s conclusions are inconsistent with the findings of its own studies.  The Environmental and Social Assessment Study, as well as the Study of Alternatives, both under the auspices of the World Bank, clearly point to huge environmental and economic risks that need to be addressed.  To this end, FoEME held an NGO briefing in Tel Aviv for media and other internationals to explain our position in detail.

FoEME also attended the Public Hearings held by the World Bank in the cities of Amman, Jerusalem and Ramallah, to make sure our concerns were heard loud and clear.  Our most recent position paper on the issue explains precisely where the World Bank conclusion discrepancies lie, where the risks are clearly stated in their own reports, and most importantly, that there IS AN ALTERNATIVE to the “Red Dead Canal” project– one that meets all the objectives of the proposed Red Dead project, but has no associated environmental or social risks.  Read our report!

Press articles, including the Washington Post, Forbes Israel, the Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, and more, on our Red Dead Conduit / press coverage page.

FoEME concerns related to the Red Dead Conduit are supported by the Green Environment Fund

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FoEME hosted a delegation from the University of California’s Center for Hydrologic Modeling, headed by Prof. Famiglietti, and conducted several events:

From the Seminar

From the Seminar

Together with The Porter School of Environment Studies in Tel Aviv University, a Seminar for professionals was held entitled “Water Storage Changes and Groundwater Depletion in the Middle East from the GRACE Satellite Mission“. Prof. Famiglietti demonstrated how these tools can be used to document water storage losses and groundwater depletion in the Tigris-Euphrates-Western, Iran region and the Arabian Peninsula. The potential for utilizing these satellite observations in Middle Eastern water management, and more specifically, the potential to Israel, Jordan & Palestine, was discussed with 25 academics, government officers and private consultants. Prior to his presentation, Dr. Youval Arbel presented the “Protecting Ground Water” project, its concept, methodologies and first outputs.  Also, Prof. Pinhas Alpert, head of the Porter School of Environment Studies, led a panel which addressed the question “Is there a Water Crisis, or a Water Management Crisis?” Both panelists, Gidon Bromberg, FoEME Israeli Director, and Prof. Famiglietti, agreed that there is a combination; climate change and water scarcity are factors, but the main reason for water shortages in most places on Earth is the inefficient and unsustainable use of water.

Last Call at the Oaisis

Last Call at the Oaisis

FoEME also held three screenings of the film “Last Call at the Oasis“, at the Tel Aviv University in Israel, at the Al Quds University in Palestine, and at the Royal Cultural Center in Amman, Jordan. Last Call at the Oasis is a new film by the same producers of the famous Al Gor movie on climate change “An Inconvenient Truth”, with this film being about the worldwide water crisis. The film highlights the work of Prof. Famiglietti from the University of California, with the last 15 minutes of the film focusing on the Jordan River and the water crises in the Middle East.

The “Protecting Ground Water” project is supported by the European Union’s ENPI CBC Mediterranean Sea Basin Programme.

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