Conservationists relaunch campaign to protect Bergesh trees

Undefined
Saturday, May 31, 2014

AMMAN — Conservationists and environment activists on Saturday denounced the reported uprooting of hundreds of centennial trees from Bergesh Forest and relaunched a national campaign to combat further destruction of the site.

At an emergency meeting for representatives of environment NGOs in the country, conservationists and environment activists claimed that the Jordan Armed Forces (JAF) has uprooted approximately 2,000 centennial trees from Bergesh forest for the construction of a military academy.

They said that by cutting down forest trees from Treasury-owned lands, JAF is in clear violation of the country’s laws and regulations, and has acted against a Cabinet decision issued in September 2011 banning the cutting or uprooting of trees in Bergesh Forest, and saying that it will remain a forest area.

The Cabinet’s decision was issued after a national campaign rallied public support for protecting the trees of Bergesh Forest from being cut down for the construction of the academy.

Located 90 kilometres northwest of the capital, Bergesh Forest’s green cover stands at 90 per cent. 

It represents an integrated ecosystem that houses over 100 plant species — 13 per cent listed as rare, 4 per cent as locally or internationally threatened and 13 per cent as holding medicinal value, according to ecologists at the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN).

“We are not against the construction of a military academy; we are against the uprooting of the few remaining forest trees in Jordan for the construction of a military academy…” RSCN Director General Yehya Khaled said at the meeting.

The RSCN said building a military academy should not be at the expense of Jordan’s forests.

Environment NGOs at the meeting called on the Prime Ministry and all related agencies to interfere and work on finding a substitute location for the academy.

They also vowed to take all necessary actions, including legal measures, to stop JAF from cutting down more of Bergesh Forest’s trees.

JAF issued a statement last week dismissing claims that the army is uprooting Bergesh Forest’s trees. The Jordan News Agency, Petra, quoted a senior JAF source as saying that the army is building the facilities on the outskirts of the forest, adding that the trees that have been removed are those damaged by last December’s snowstorm.

The official said that when selecting the location for the military academy, the army adhered to all relevant laws and regulations.

Sources at the Ministry of Agriculture told The Jordan Times last week that the ministry’s Rangers recorded violations by JAF in Bergesh Forest for cutting down forest trees.

Nimer Haddadin, the ministry’s spokesperson, confirmed that the violations were recorded in accordance with the law and they were referred to court, without identifying the perpetrators.

The RSCN has previously said that the project violates the 2002 temporary agriculture law. Article 28 of the law forbids the inclusion of forests within municipalities’ boundaries, unless approved by the agriculture minister. In addition, the same article prohibits dividing forest land or changing their land use category.

The society said the project would also be in violation of Article 35, Paragraph B of the Agriculture Law, which forbids uprooting, damaging or violating any centennial or rare forest trees and threatened wild plants, in any form. 

In addition, the terms of reference of the environment impact assessment will breach EIA regulation number 37 of the year 2005.

The army has argued that the academy is a strategic project that would bring development to Ajloun Governorate.

In 2011, a military official said JAF has taken note of the public response to the project and introduced 12 main amendments to its original blueprints, under which “no more than 100 trees” will be cut down, as opposed to 2,400 in the original plan.

In addition, 10-20 trees will be planted for each uprooted tree, the army said at the time.