27 kilometres of coastline faces ongoing challenges of pollution.
The Aqaba Gulf is under scrutiny as solid waste levels are rising, and industrial pollution is amplifying.
Nedal M. Al Quran is the project manager of Mainstreaming Biodiversity Conservation into ICZM in Aqaba.
Nedal has been witness to the rising issues, however still maintains the quality of marine bio-diversity in the Aqaba Gulf.
According to Nedal, rubbish generated by beach goers, the local tourists and the garbage disposed into the sea from vessels, are the main environmental issues facing the gulf.
“The people of Jordan are educated but we still suffer the level of awareness in some groups who are still not up to the necessary degree of understanding, so, many NGOs focus their activities on raising awareness,” he said.
Nedal is more concerned with the industrial sector of Jordan bringing the pollution to alarming levels and is difficult to monitor and control.
“I would say one of the main sources of pollution is the industrial activities” he said. Aqaba has an industrial complex in the southern part of the city, which includes fertilizer plants and power plants. “Such facilities use the sea water for cooling purposes.” This is the main concern, he said.
“We have rich marine diversity, it’s unique, especially in terms of quality in comparison to our neighboring countries on the Gulf,” said Nedal. However he is pushing for locals to make more of an effort “to keep it safe and to maintain this quality”, he said.
“We do not have a problem with the oil pollution because we do not import huge quantities of crude oil or huge tankers, so oil pollution is minimal in our region,” he said.
The coral reefs of the Red Sea are well known for their diving and snorkeling. However, even this activity has a cost. “We suffer on a small scale from the physical damage on the coral reef communities as a result from diving activities.”
In 2002 Aqaba was transferred into a special economic zone. This bought new projects and major developments.
“We have prepared a State-of-Coast Report, and it’s the first time in the region, we prepared a Sea-User Plan which specified the different uses along the coastline,” said Nedal.
The Aqaba Marine Park, which is a government entity managed by the local authority, is carrying out educational and awareness activities on the importance of the marine environment.
“The annual budget allocated for The Aqaba Marine Park is about 0.7 million JD,” said Nedal.
One of the projects Nedal has been involved in is the Coastal Zone management project. This main goal of the project is to internalize biodiversity as an asset and for infrastructure to take into consideration the sensitivity of the ecosystem
He says these issues are being managed by projects and activities implemented by the local government and NGOs.
“The government and NGO sector try to secure funds from national donors to fund these activities.”
The Global Environment Facility funds different projects to promote marine bio-diversity, terrestrial bio-diversity and solid waste management programs.
The European Union and private sector are also contributors to environmental conservation.
Nedal said, “if I gave a list of the environmental challenges we are facing, water scarcity is at the top.
“When we deal with our water resources we have to adapt to the existing situation we have to modify our behavior on the use of the water resources.”