Protecting natural reserves is good for ecotourism – environment minister

BOTTOM Ecotourism
A general view of Ajloun taken on March 18, 2021. (File photo: Jason Ruffin/Jordan News)
AMMAN — Jordan is home to over 12 nature reserves and a wide array of unique flora and fauna, as well a wide range of breathtaking landscapes ranging from mountains to forestry, which according to environmentalists must be conserved to protect Jordan's biodiversity, in order to attract ecotourism to the Kingdom and increase the sector’s revenue.اضافة اعلان

Minister of Environment Muawieh Radaideh, in recent remarks to Al-Ghad News during a visit to Ajloun Forest Reserve last week, highlighted the important role that natural reserves play in attracting tourists to Jordan, particularly those interested in ecotourism, noting the many royal initiatives and awareness programs focusing on Ajloun.

The Ajloun Forest Reserve, with an area of approximately, is rich with precious natural resources such as evergreen oak Quercus Calliprinos, Carob Ceratonia Siliqua, wild pistachio Pistacia Palaestina. Major animal species in the reserve include wild boars, hyenas, as well as some unique birds like greenfinches and doves. Another wondrous attraction in Ajloun Forest Reserve are the ruins of Mar Ilyas, one of the oldest churches in Jordan that has religious significance to many believers and can be enjoyed by hikers and visitors of the reserve.

Acting head of protected areas at the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN), Hussam Alawaidat, told Jordan News that RSCN employs 81 people in the ecotourism sector, which highlights its employment potential and Alawaidat estimates that “there has been approximately a 60 percent decrease in revenues from ecotourism, compared to previous years”.

The RSCN manages well over 23 ecotourism initiatives, dispersed all over the Kingdom, including different facilities, such as campsites, eco-lodges and restaurants.

The RSCN states on its website as major concerns “illegal hunting and the general blatant disregard for the natural world”.

“The biodiversity found in Jordan’s reserves is a massive natural wealth that the RSCN aims to protect,” said Alawaidat, adding that there are environment guidelines in place that ensure the safety of these biodiverse areas. Ten of Jordan’s 12 natural reserves are managed by the RSCN, which is funded partly by government assistance as well as through grants and donations.

Alawaidat stated that “ecotourism is undeniably a very positive thing for Jordan, and a core aspect of RSCN's mission relates to nature conservation, while creating income-generating jobs and economic incentives for local populations. There are over 350 direct beneficiaries to our initiatives, and one of our long term projects involves improving the ecotourism sector.”

Minister of Environment spokesperson Ahmad Obeidat told Jordan News that one of the biggest challenges related to enhancing ecotourism and increasing the number of visitors arriving at reserves, is “the issue of transportation. Reaching some of these reserves is a bit challenging, and there needs to be more work done to improve these transportation networks.”

Obeidat said the ministry closely collaborates with the RSCN to promote ecotourism across the Kingdom and to highlight its latest projects, remarking that there efforts underway to increase the number of eco parks in the Kingdom, by adding four new eco parks and planting more trees.

According to Obeidat, the ministry is keen to overcome the drop in ecotourism which occurred due to the outbreak of COVID-19, but a recovery is not easy. “Of course we want to overcome the economic and tourism-related challenges that the pandemic has created, but this will depend on the health situation across the world and provided that visitors abide by the latest health protocols.” Visitors interested in Jordan’s ecotourism are a mix of foreigners and nationals.

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