Privatizing Maan Water Directorate stirs people and questions

Maan Protests
Residents of Maan protest a decision to privatize the Maan Water Directorate on January 9, 2022. (Photo: Anas Abu Karaki)
AMMAN — Dozens of Maan Governorate residents staged a sit-in on Friday in front of the Maan Mosque and in some governorate villages, rejecting the proposal to privatize the Maan Water Directorate and turn it into the Aqaba Water Company, a move they attribute to political and economic reasons.اضافة اعلان

Media spokesman for the Ministry of Water Omar Salameh told Jordan News that the people of Maan have an incorrect notion about the privatization of Maan water, since the Aqaba Water Company is owned by the Ministry of Water and Irrigation.

(Photo: Anas Abu Karaki)

All water companies in Jordan are government companies run in the manner of the private sector, he said, adding that the goal of these companies is to improve the level of services, raise the efficiency of the workers’ performance, and increase the speed of response to requested services.

Salameh stressed that there will be no change in service costs and water tariffs.

“Studies showed that 87 percent of the water bills issued in the last quarter of 2021 were lower than the water bills issued in the comparison time over the past years,” he said, adding that electronic water meters, which people do not trust, are guaranteed and tested in many developed countries.

Salameh said that a meeting is scheduled for today between the Coordinating Committee for the Maan Governorate, some deputies, and the minister of water to talk about the issue and listen to the people’s demands.

Maan MP Tayseer Krishan told Jordan News that handing over the administration of an entity to another, in this case of the Maan Water Authority to the Aqaba Water Company, is a phenomenon that most governorates witnessed, “but the people of the Maan are afraid of the additional cost in their bills”.

Krishan said that the protests that took place in Aqaba over the water bill fueled the fear of the Maan residents, and blamed the ministry for it, saying that it “should clarify and explain the purpose of this step and its consequences”.

There are also those who say that privatizing the Maan Water will cause the lands of Maan to be handed over to foreign parties that are already shareholders in the Aqaba Water.

“Actually, many Jordanian lands have already been sold to companies affiliated with the Ministry of Water to use their services in developing water and sewage networks,” Krishan said, adding: “As for what is being told about lands sold to foreign countries, it is just myths.”

Krishan said that the ministry will not force the residents of Maan to hand over the area’s water authority to Aqaba Water Company, and if the residents continue to reject it, “the ministry will close this file”.

Member of the Coordinating Committee for the people of Maan Governorate Anas Abu Karaki told Jordan News in a telephone interview that “the Ministry of Water, which has a budget of millions of dinars, has only three governorates affiliated to it: Maan, Karak, and Tafileh. It is unreasonable that the ministry is unable to administer these governorates and resorts to handing them over to other companies that are not entirely Jordanian”.

Comparing it to the transfer of the Maan railroad to the Aqaba Development Corporation, he said “this is an Ottoman-Islamic cultural heritage, so there is no doubt that the sale of the Maan Water will be next.”

“We know that France partly owns the ADC, and we fear that later, Israeli shares in this company will appear and (it will buy) the entire Maan Water Authority from the Jordanian government.”

Youssef El-Zait, another committee member, said that the government largely marginalized the local community. A meeting was scheduled for Saturday with the secretary-general of the Ministry of Water in Maan, he said, but it was postponed “till further notice. We later knew that a secret meeting took place on the same day between the secretary-general of the ministry, the Water Authority, the governor of Maan, and the Aqaba Water Company members. That is, we were left out,” he said.

The Ministry of Water, like the Water Authority, is a government agency, he said. The former “has highly qualified and experienced workers, so what is the reason for transferring the provincial water management to another company with foreign shares?”

Ahmed Al-Bazay’ah, another member of the committee, told Jordan News that the ministry had stated its desire to receive foreign grants allocated to this company, but “grants from organizations like UNESCO and others are provided only to NGOs and the government, and Aqaba Water Company is not entirely governmental, so it seems that something wrong is happening”.

Bazay’ah stressed that the stand taken by the Maan community is proof of the depth of the committee’s responsibility.

“A petition was submitted to several deputies in Maan, the governor of Maan, and the director of Maan intelligence. People’s demands were made known through news websites and Al-Hussein Bin Talal University radio. The committee also issued three statements. Finally, an appointment was made with the minister of water on Monday,” he said, stressing that “people started to lose confidence in the government and do not intend to give up on their demands.

“If the government insists on this project, it is the only one that will bear the consequences of the escalation that we will take.”

Read more National news