Letter to the editor: Clarification

Jordan News
(File photo: Jordan News)
On August 13, 2022, Jordan News published a report regarding observations about the accumulation of waste in the Wadi Rum area. Unfortunately, some points mentioned in this report were wrongly reported, and considering that Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA) is the governing and regulating body of the area, we would like to take the opportunity to clarify these allegations. اضافة اعلان

We believe that constructive criticism is essential, as a means to help us all improve the offering in the magical area of Wadi Rum, while protecting the site and preserving its beauty and uniqueness as a cultural and natural world heritage site. We all have a responsibility toward our tourism products, by promoting them through the proper communication channels and tools, and avoiding any negative rhetoric and abuse. We are also strong believers in the need for investigative journalism, which should report accurately, truthfully, and objectively any news related to the sector, and always refer to the authorities when seeking the truth, granting them the right to respond to reinforce the credibility of what is published.

We welcome media comments when they serve the public interest. We are witnessing a strong comeback of tourism, after a tough slowdown due to the pandemic. The collective efforts of the public and private sectors enables us to reap the benefits today, as we look forward to a positive season for inbound tourism in the months ahead.

Below, we detail our observations on what was mentioned in the published report in order to clarify to the public those points:
The area referred to in the report is located outside the boundaries of the protected area of Wadi Rum, which is governed by ASEZA, the entity responsible for the management and protection of the area. ASEZA’s responsibility in the area includes maintaining cleanliness, which is executed through a contract with a specialized company for the collection, transportation, and treatment of waste within the boundaries of the nature reserve, which covers an area of 720 sq.km., and includes the village of Wadi Rum.

ASEZA has allocated two sites under its jurisdiction (since its inception 20 years ago) within the boundaries of Wadi Rum village, as shown in the first image published with the newspaper report (which is the only image that is actually under the jurisdiction of ASEZA) and clearly indicating its cleanliness, with no accumulation of waste, since it is cleaned and maintained on daily basis. Contradictory to the details mentioned in the report, this area does not hinder the parking of vehicles, as it is a designated and well-known area within the public parking lot at the entrance to the village. We are grateful to the camp owners in the area, who support waste collection efforts upon completion of scheduled trips of tourists staying with them. Usually, these environmental camps do not produce the quantities of waste referred to in the report, due to a number of factors, including their relatively small size, the nature of the services provided within their facility, and the number of visitors. The amount is waste produced is known by calculating the quantities that are transported daily by the designated unloading containers.

The number of operating camps within the protected area part of the reserve is 193, ranging in size from large, medium, and small; they are environmental camps in nature, and receive a limited number of visitors, according to their capacity. The waste management in those camps is carried out inside the reserve in cooperation with the camp owners, and in addition to the workers who cover the reserve within a daily program for the collection and disposal of scattered waste at the two designated collection points mentioned above.

Except for the first picture, all other pictures included in your report are of areas that lie outside the boundaries of the protected area, contradictory to what was mentioned in the report. Despite their being outside ASEZA’s jurisdiction, the authority, out of its sense of national pride and responsibility, has carried out several clean-up campaigns in these area, in collaboration with various administrative authorities. Sadly, the absence of constant supervision by the relevant authorities and entities allows for this littering phenomenon near the main road leading to those areas; part of the litter are items such as debris, remains of household furniture and construction works, and other waste.

In addition to the cleaning efforts, ASEZA currently requires the tourist camps to be part of the waste collection service conducted in the area, in accordance with regulations that govern such activities. Moreover, ASEZA will provide waste collection service through a specialized company, including providing waste collection containers near camp sites. Furthermore, and working alongside the memorandum of understanding signed with the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, ASEZA will take upon itself the responsibility of licensing of camps located outside the borders of the protected area, which will contribute to solving a large part of this phenomenon, in addition to concentrating collaborative efforts of all related parties to enforce the law, and control operations while applying environmental safety and protection.

The report included interviews with persons and entities entrusted with part of the responsibility, as part of a participatory effort, for maintaining and controlling the cleanliness of the area under their jurisdiction. Ultimately, we aim to all work together for the benefit of the sector, and would appreciate avoiding a blame game amongst everyone concerned.

ASEZA will spare no efforts in supporting the continuous development of the tourism sector at large, all in the sake of strengthening Jordan’s position on the international tourism map.

Saleh Al-Naimat
Director of the Rum Natural Area - Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority
Phone: 0799000943

Read more National news
Jordan News