Jordan’s restoration efforts push back on degrading land

Jordan’s restoration efforts push back on degrading land
A dam built in the 1960’s to protect the area from flooding in Petra, Jordan. (AP Photo/file)
Short Url
Updated 27 April 2022

Jordan’s restoration efforts push back on degrading land

Jordan’s restoration efforts push back on degrading land
  • Local organizations believe projects that reintroduce native plants and implement smart water harvesting systems will cushion the impacts of climate change and desertification
  • The UN desertification agency says 40% of land globally is currently degraded

SABHA, Jordan: Efforts to restore damaged but once fertile land in Jordan’s desert are sprouting hope for one of the world’s most water-scarce nations, as a land assessment report Wednesday warned of the growing scale of global degradation.
Local organizations believe projects that reintroduce native plants and implement smart water harvesting systems will cushion the impacts of climate change and desertification, which are only set to worsen, according to the United Nations report.
The UN desertification agency says 40 percent of land globally is currently degraded, blaming unsustainable land and water management, poor agricultural practices, mining, urbanization and infrastructure development for the land’s deterioration.
Mira Haddad, from the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas said several other factors, including “overexploitation of vegetation cover, overgrazing, and...new land practices” as well as climate change are also contributing to land degradation in Jordan.
But environmentalists are already pursuing options to ward off further damage. One of the efforts, run by the Watershed and Development Initiative, is introducing four native plants to 10,000 acres (41 square kilometers) of desert in the Sabha reserve, roughly 56 miles (90 kilometers) east of the Jordanian capital Amman.
“We’re working on the water, we’re working on the green cover and we’re working also with the habitats of the creatures, from insects to animals and all living parts of that ecosystem,” Deyala Tarawneh, a WADI founding member, said. “The success rate of these plants is 85 percent, which is considered a very high percentage, and they only need to be watered once, which is also reducing the amount of water needed for the irrigation of the green areas.”
But despite the success of WADI’s planting initiative, land restoration in Jordan is still facing several challenges: the number of land unit areas available for restoration is lacking, and the willingness of local communities to leave the land for at least one or two rainy seasons without grazing is also hindering efforts, said ICARDA’s Haddad.
Jordan is one of several countries already grappling with the effects of degradation, with more than 2.3 billion people currently living in water-stressed countries, according to the UN report. It warned that more food supply disruptions, forced migration and greater pressure on species survival are also expected as climate change intensifies and poor land management practices continue. By 2030, it warns that 700 million people could be displaced by drought.
“The situation we have right now is unhealthy and certainly not acceptable,” Ibrahim Thiaw, the executive secretary of the UN desertification agency, told the Associated Press. “The more you degrade land the more you emit carbon and the more you contribute to climate change.”
The report calls for financial support to bolster conservation and restoration in developing countries. It says the expansion of protected areas and conservation hotspots, better water management, smart agriculture, and the rewilding of biodiversity can be boosted by appropriate funding.
If these kinds of measures are implemented on a wider scale, the UN agency’s restoration scenario predicts reduced biodiversity loss and improved soil health, with the benefits particularly felt in North and Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America.
But it also notes that inaction would lead to 16 million square kilometers (6 million square miles) — nearly the size of the entire South American continent — of land degradation by 2050.
The report also recommends scaling up land rights for Indigenous peoples and local communities, urging farmers to draw on ample lessons about land restoration, crop adaptation and livestock from established customs and traditional knowledge.
“We welcome new allies to this battle, including economic actors who are increasingly interested in avoiding climate risk, but we must make clear that we will not be used for greenwashing,” José Gregorio Diaz Mirabal, the leader of the Congress of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin, said in a statement. “Partnering with Indigenous peoples requires embracing transformative change.”
The UN’s Thiaw agreed that support for restoration projects should be ramped up.
“The message from the report is that do not take land degradation as a fatality. It can be addressed, and it is the cheapest solution to the climate crisis and biodiversity loss. It is possible to do it by 2050, which is just one generation,” Thiaw said. “It does not require high tech nor a PhD to undertake. Land restoration is accessible and democratic.”
Several countries, like Jordan, are already addressing their own land issues, from drought preparedness programs in Mexico, the USA and Brazil, to the 11-country Great Green Wall in Africa aimed at restoring 100 million hectares (390,000 square miles) of degraded landscapes along the Sahel.
“Land restoration is a win for the environment, economy, society, and for biodiversity,” said Thiaw. “What we are calling for now is the acceleration of such programs.”


Depositors storm Lebanon banks to demand their frozen money

Depositors storm Lebanon banks to demand their frozen money
Updated 9 min 43 sec ago

Depositors storm Lebanon banks to demand their frozen money

Depositors storm Lebanon banks to demand their frozen money
  • Banks shuttered their branches last week after a spate of holdups by angry depositors

BEIRUT: Lebanese depositors, including a retired police officer, stormed at least three banks in the cash-strapped country Tuesday after banks ended a week-long strike and partially reopened.

As the tiny Mediterranean nation’s crippling economic crisis continues to worsen, a growing number of Lebanese depositors have opted to break into banks and forcefully withdraw their trapped savings. Lebanon’s cash-strapped banks have imposed informal limits on cash withdrawals. The break-ins reflect growing public anger toward the banks and the authorities who have struggled to reform the country’s corrupt and battered economy.

Three-quarters of the population have plunged into poverty in an economic crisis that the World Bank describes as one of the worst in over a century. Meanwhile, the Lebanese pound has lost 90 percent of its value against that dollar, making it difficult for millions across the country to cope with skyrocketing prices.

Ali Al-Sahli, a retired officer who served in Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces, raided a BLC Bank branch in the eastern town of Chtaura, demanding $24,000 in trapped savings to transfer to his son, who owes rent and tuition fees in Ukraine.

“Count the money, before one of you dies,” Al-Sahli said in a video he recorded with one hand while waving a gun in the other.

 

 

According to Depositors’ Outcry, a protest group, Al-Sahli said he had offered to sell his kidney to fund his son’s expenses, after the bank for months blocked him from transferring money. With his son owing months of rent and tuition fees, the retired officer reached out to the protest group for help.

In the video he filmed on his cellphone, Al-Sahli waved a handgun, threatening to shoot, if bank employees didn’t oblige. Employees struggled to calm him down, as protesters from the depositors group and bystanders watched from outside.

Al-Sahli was unable to retrieve any of his money, and security forces arrested him.

Elsewhere, a depositor broke into a Byblos Bank branch in the southern city of Tyre. And in the northern city of Tripoli, workers of the Qadisha Electricity Company broke into a local First National Bank branch protesting banks deducting fees from their delayed salary payments. The Lebanese Army arrived at the site in Tripoli and patrolled the area.

Some depositors’ protest groups, including the Depositors’ Outcry, have supported the break-ins and vowed to continue doing so.

“We’re sending a message to the banks that their security measures won’t stop the depositors, because these depositors are all struggling,” Depositors’ Outcry media coordinator Moussa Agassi told The Associated Press. “We’re trying to tell the bank owners to try to find a solution, and beefing up security measures isn’t going to keep them safe.”

The general public have commended the angry depositors, some even hailing them as heroes, most notably Sally Hafez, who stormed a Beirut bank branch with a fake pistol and gasoline canister to take some $13,000 to fund her 23 year-old sister’s cancer treatment.

The banks, however, have condemned the heists, and urged the Lebanese government to provide security personnel.

The Association of Banks in Lebanon in late September shuttered for one week after at least seven depositors stormed into branches and forcefully took their trapped savings that month, citing security concerns. The banks last week partially reopened a handful of branches, only welcoming commercial clients with appointments into their premises.

Lebanon meanwhile has been struggling to restructure its financial sector and economy to reach an agreement with The International Monetary Fund for a bailout. The IMF has criticized Lebanese officials for their slow progress.


Iran launches test ‘tug’ into suborbital space

Iran launches test ‘tug’ into suborbital space
Updated 04 October 2022

Iran launches test ‘tug’ into suborbital space

Iran launches test ‘tug’ into suborbital space
  • Saman test spacecraft was built by the country’s Space Research Center
  • Iran has long pursued a space program saying it is aimed at peaceful purposes

TEHRAN, Iran: Iranian state media said Tuesday the government has launched a space tug capable of shifting satellites between orbits.
State TV said the Saman test spacecraft was built by the country’s Space Research Center and launched Monday by the Defense Ministry.
Hassan Salarieh, chief of the Islamic Republic’s space agency, told state TV that officials “hope to use and test the main tug in near future.” Iran unveiled the craft in 2017. A space tug can transfer a satellite from one orbit to another.
Iran has long pursued a space program saying it is aimed at peaceful purposes. The country has both a civilian and a military space program, which the US fears could be used to advance its ballistic missile program.
In June Tehran had launched a solid-fuel rocket into space and in August a Russian rocket successfully launched an Iranian Khayyam satellite into orbit. It’s named after Omar Khayyam, a Persian scientist who lived in the 11th and 12th centuries.
However, Iran has seen a series of mishaps and failed satellite launches over recent years
Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard in April 2020 revealed its own secret space program by successfully launching a satellite into orbit. The Guard operates its own military infrastructure parallel to Iran’s regular armed forces.


Yemen seeks to implement developmental projects in Taiz

Yemen seeks to implement developmental projects in Taiz
Updated 04 October 2022

Yemen seeks to implement developmental projects in Taiz

Yemen seeks to implement developmental projects in Taiz
  • Work plans and challenges were reviewed ahead of finalizing projects under the Saudi Program for Yemen’s Development and Reconstruction

ADEN: Yemeni officials reviewed plans with charity organizations to implement developmental projects in Taiz as part of ongoing reconstruction efforts in the province.

On Monday, Taiz Governor Nabil Shamsan discussed work plans and challenges ahead of finalizing projects under the Saudi Program for Yemen’s Development and Reconstruction.
Yemen is working closely with Saudi Arabia to establish a college of medicine in Taiz University, construct a center to treat cancer and rehabilitate a road linking Taiz with Makha.
Shamsan said these sustainable projects aim to serve the people of Taiz, which remains under Houthi siege, and mitigate the effects that the war has left on vulnerable communities.
Meanwhile, Major General Abdul Karim Al-Sabri, the Undersecretary of Taiz Governorate for Defense and Security Affairs, discussed de-mining efforts with the HALO Trust, a Scottish charity organization specialized in clearing mines in war zones.
He vowed collaboration with the organization in surveying targeted areas, detecting the type of mines implanted and raising awareness among citizens on dealing with mines that might be encountered.
He said local authorities would facilitate the work with the organization to de-mine high-priority targeted areas and save lives.


Iran arrests prominent rights activists

Iran arrests prominent rights activists
Updated 04 October 2022

Iran arrests prominent rights activists

Iran arrests prominent rights activists
  • Iranian government has been referring to the protests as ‘riots’ and ‘sedition’ to suppress them

DUBAI: Iran’s crackdown against prominent individuals linked to ongoing protests in the country continues with the arrest of prominent human rights activists in Tehran.

Bahareh Hedayat, a university student, was detained early on October 3, Radio Farda reported, as the unrest hit a crescendo in Tehran and has hit far-flung provinces in open demonstration of grievances against rigid social restrictions, political repression and a failing economy.

Hedayat is a former political prisoner who has been arrested and imprisoned several times, the report noted, quoting the BBC.

Hossein Masumi, another political activist, was arrested on October 2 with his whereabouts unknown according to his family.

Meanwhile, a group of Iranian school girls were seen in viral footage expelling an education ministry official from their school premises, according to Iran International.

The London-based TV station shared the video saying the footage was taken at a school in Gohardasht of Karaj, west of Tehran. 

The protest actions, spurred by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while under detention by Iran’s morality police for alleged violations of the Islamic dress code, are on their third week despite government efforts to quell them.

The Iranian government has been referring to the protests as ‘riots’ and ‘sedition’ to suppress them, and being used as basis for the detention of key personalities.

 


UNRWA director visits Jenin refugee camp days after Israeli assault

UNRWA director visits Jenin refugee camp days after Israeli assault
Updated 04 October 2022

UNRWA director visits Jenin refugee camp days after Israeli assault

UNRWA director visits Jenin refugee camp days after Israeli assault
  • Adam Bouloukos said: ‘I witnessed the extent of the damage caused by the recent Israeli military operation. I saw fear and concern in school children’s eyes’
  • He added that the current level of violence in the camp, and across the West Bank, is at the highest level the agency has seen in years

JERUSALEM: Adam Bouloukos, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East’s director in the West Bank, has visited Jenin refugee camp, the Palestine News and Info Agency reported on Monday.

His visit came just days after a large-scale Israeli military assault on the camp last Wednesday that left four people dead and 44 injured.

During his visit to the camp, Bouloukos was shown an UNRWA clinic that was hit by bullets during the attack, which took place while patients and medical staff were inside. It provides healthcare services to about 35,000 people. He also visited a UNRWA school, where he met students and teachers.

“I witnessed the extent of the damage caused by the recent Israeli military operation,” Bouloukos said. “I saw fear and concern in schoolchildren’s eyes.

“The level of violence in Jenin camp, and across the West Bank, is the highest we have seen in years. Many Palestinians, including refugees, were killed or injured. Violence only brings loss of life, grief for families and instability.

“All parties to the conflict should protect civilians, including Palestine refugees. UN staff and facilities and civilian infrastructure must be kept out of harm’s way. I specifically call on the Israeli security forces to limit the use of excessive force and spare the loss of civilian life in Jenin and across the West Bank.”