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Thursday, June 13

Biodiversity in Jordan and in Occupied Palestine
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What is the real status of the environment in Palestine and how does it compare to Jordan?  I just returned from my latest field work in Jordan.  I started doing field work in Jordan in 1974 and published my first paper on new records of bats from Jordan in 1979 (an undergraduate seminar research project).  The population of Jordan has more than doubled since then.  I started doing field work as a teenager in Palestine in 1971 and the population in the West Bank and Gaza (22% of Palestine) has increased three folds.  650,000 Israeli Jewish settlers now live in the occupied West Bank area in over 135 colonies and some 100 colony “outposts”.  In this email I share with you some issues of environment/biodiversity in Palestine (now Israel) and Jordan with notes and observations from direct involvement and countless field trips.  This is not intended to cover many issues. Let me start with just a couple of similarities and differences between areas east and west of the Jordan valley and then give you links to more detailed studies and a video tape we just finished about our work.

-Population growth and pressure impacts biodiversity adversely by destruction of natural habitats, the use of pesticides etc. (we noted dead raptors from pesticide use in both areas even in the latest trips)

-Impact of global warming where average temperatures here will rise some 4-5 degrees centigrade and annual rainfall will decrease by 20-25% over the next three decades.

-Jordan is populated by its own people and by Palestinian refugees (who have full citizenship) so the management of the country is largely for the benefit of all people.  In Palestine, colonial settlers rule and the native Palestinians are marginalized and squeezed into Bantustans.  This has very negative consequences (see my article below)

-Political colonial considerations make for very poor environmental decisions.  I noted some of these in my article below but also just noted how water in valleys leading to the Dead Sea on the Jordan side (like Wadi Mujib) are kept intact by the Jordanians who pump the water only just before the water reaches the dead sea.  On the West Bank side, pumping was done by the Israelis right at the spring site and so drying up the whole valley (e.g. at Al-Auja).  This was environmentally devastating but its reason was political (to deny water usage to Palestinians in the Jordan valley and help colonize their land).

-The fact that millions of Palestinians remain occupied and worried about where their next meal will come from leaves little room for concern about the environment. Streets are far cleaner in Jordan than in the remaining Palestinian villages and towns and refugee camps (of course 530 Palestinian villages and towns were ethnically cleansed). This also has to do with sense of ownership/control.  Palestinians feel they have no control.  Colonial settlers coming from around the world also do not feel responsibility but only political desire to control and dump their sewage on Palestinian land and do other action that harm the environment (see below).

Acknowledgement: I want to just say a personal thank you to my best friend Prof. Zuhair Amr and to the colleagues from Jordan: Husain from JUST and others from the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN,  They are dedicated and hardworking people who care about the environment.  RSCN provided the vehicles and helped arrange our stay in beautiful places like Wadi Mujib and Wadi Rum.  Zuhair uses his own money for this work and his family kindly hosted me in Amman.  We collected important genetic and other data on some rare species.  I also thank the numerous volunteers in Palestine helping us with this work.

Article in proceedings of a conference on the status of the environment (forthcoming publication from Environmental Education Center) By Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD, Professor at Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities

A video we did about studies of biodiversity in Palestine.  Unfortunately it is in Arabic (we are now looking to translate to English and I will share that link once available):

Biodiversity Status in the Occupied Palestinian State: On the occasion of Biodiversity International Day

Action: Join us in Palestine Biodiversity Facebook page

Pictured: Pregnant orangutan clinging to the last remaining forest tree after bulldozers clear jungle to make way for oil plantation: Heart wrenching scenes as frightened animals lose habitat in Borneo. Many left starving and on brink of death by destruction of trees. Rescuers stun them with anesthetic guns and capture them in nets


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