Report on Amman high pollution rate disputed by Environment Ministry

Jordan, like the rest of cities worldwide, witnessed a drop in air pollution levels during 2020 as a result of nationwide lockdowns and curfews to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. (Photo: Ameer Khalifeh/Jordan News)
AMMAN — Director of Environmental Monitoring and Assessment at the Ministry of Environment Ali Mashni said the ministry was not aware of a Green Peace (GP) report published this week suggesting that Jordan’s capital has witnessed an increase in nitrogen oxide levels in the atmosphere this year compared to 2020. اضافة اعلان

He pointed out that GP uses a different pollution measurement method than the ministry; while GP uses satellites, the ministry uses air quality monitoring stations that are located across the Kingdom.

The GP report, based on monitoring levels of nitrogen oxide in the atmosphere of leading Middle Eastern and North African cities, was recently published and carried by Al-Ghad News.  It stated that in the year 2020, Amman’s nitrogen oxide levels witnessed a 44 percent drop compared to the previous year’s levels. GP uses the Dobson unit, which is a measurement unit that monitors the concentration of specific gases in parts of the atmosphere, using satellites.  

According to the report, in 2020, the nitrogen levels in Amman were 0.116 Dobson units (DU). In 2021, that number increased to 0.209 DU, representing an 81 percent increase from 2020’s levels.

While Jordan, like the rest of cities worldwide, witnessed a drop in air pollution levels during 2020 as a result of nationwide lockdowns and curfews to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which explains the disparate pollution rates between 2020 and the current year, Mashni attributed the findings to another factor; the use of different measurement methods.

“If anybody wanted to quickly learn about air pollution levels throughout the Kingdom, they are encouraged to visit the Ministry’s Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Directorate website, which gives people access to air pollution data from 12 ambient air quality monitoring stations located in Zarqa, Irbid, and Amman,” he said.

Mashni made it clear that the ministry’s monitoring stations would most likely yield different results compared with the satellites. “Emissions revealed by satellites for a specific city might be inaccurate due to the unintended inclusion of emissions from nearby cities in the region,” he said, which explains why GP's monitoring methods are fundamentally different from the ministry's methods.

The Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Directorate Website ( rates the air pollution situation of numerous Jordanian locations from various cities as either good, moderate, unhealthy, very unhealthy, or hazardous, and the rating fluctuates by the hour. On Sunday afternoon, Tabarbour (greater Amman area) and Al-Masana, in Zarqa measured “moderate.”

The detrimental health effects on the human body posed by nitrogen oxide’s presence in the atmosphere relies on three crucial factors, according to Mashni: Firstly, the concentration of nitrogen oxide in the atmosphere. Secondly, the length of time spent being exposed to the pollutant. Lastly, the sensitivity of the individual towards nitrogen oxide, which varies from person to person.

According to Mashni, the latest data ranked Jordan 36th globally in air quality, which makes the Kingdom a relatively safe country. “I hope we can preserve our position in this ranking,” he added.

Former Minister of Environment and the Chairman of the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, Khaled Irani, told Jordan News that he expected current nitrogen oxide levels in Jordan to be higher than previous years, due to an increase in the movement of cars, which is a primary factor behind nitrogen oxide emissions.

“The transportation sector consumes 45-50 percent of the Kingdom’s total energy consumption,” he remarked, adding that “nitrogen oxide has harmful respiratory effects, and can lead to irritation and certain diseases in the human eye. As a direct pollutant, it can be considered more harmful on people’s health compared to carbon dioxide. Nitrogen oxide is present in the atmosphere naturally, but in excess, it is problematic, especially since it is trapped as a greenhouse gas.”

Some positive steps that could improve the air pollution situation in Jordan, in Irani’s view, should start with “the priority of merging the energy sector with the transportation sector to create an advanced transportation network. Through using excess electricity as renewable energy, the transportation sector can be transformed for the better. The Bus Express project is a step in the right direction, but more can be done,” he said  

According to Mashni, the Ministry highly encourages the use of environmentally friendly alternatives to diesel-powered cars, like solar-powered and electric-powered vehicles, as the number one source of pollution in Jordan comes from transportation.

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