Posted by: EcoPeace Middle East | May 12, 2015

FoEME/EcoPeace Cross-Border Tour in Salfit

In early February, EcoPeace organised a cross-border tour to the district of Salfit in the West Bank. It was attended by members of human rights activist group MaschomWatch and leaders from the Joint Services Council of Salfit district. The tour provided an opportunity to share knowledge, locate sources of water pollution in the Salfit district first hand, focusing on the flow of sewage water from both Israeli settlements and Palestinian villages in the area into nearby Palestinian villages. It also allowed building cross-border partnerships so that talk of action could culminate with real steps on the ground to improve the current environmental and sanitary situation. And structure a more effective way of finding solutions for the water pollution problem at hand.

The tour began in a nature reserve in Wadi Kana. The beauty of the lush greenery around us served as a reminder of the environment that needed to be protected. The district of Salfit compromises of 18 Palestinian villages, with around 70,000 residents. There are also 23 Israeli settlements in the area. There we learned about the history of Palestinian attempts to deal with wastewater pollution in the area.

Plans for introducing Palestinian wastewater treatment facilities have been ongoing since 1995 and have not been constructed yet. Different speculations of conflicts of interests regarding the location, political constraints, and a long bureaucratic process have caused the delay.

Representatives of the Salfit Joint Services council emphasized the need for co-operation as equal parties and transparency regarding prices for treating Palestinian sewage on the Israeli side of the Green Line, which currently are charged as a lump sum, as opposed to a transparent, itemized bill. Therefore cooperation without equity was ultimately not in their interests.

As we approached the next stop, on road 5, just between Barkan and Ariel Industrial zones, it seemed to be a picturesque waterfall on the side of the highway. When we stepped out, however, our noses told a different story. What we saw was a steady stream of raw sewage, flowing downstream from the Israeli industrial zone of Barkan into the Palestinian villages below. The smell, as well as the build-up of foam on the water, made it clear that the water

was heavily polluted. At the next stop, in the village of Kufer-Al-Dik, the polluted water we had seen moments earlier now flowed into a stream in the village and threatened a nearby fresh water spring. As the residents and members of the JSC told us, the smell and swarms of mosquitoes coming from the stream of sewage had made living in the area increasingly unpleasant.

The last stop was in an area downstream from Salfit and Ariel. Again, the picturesque backdrop of the rolling hills hid the darker problem at hand. Two streams of sewage, from both the Palestinian villages and Ariel, converged to flow down an otherwise dry valley. Nearby was the site of the proposed Palestinian Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is waiting to be constructed.

While the tour was a harsh reality check on the situation in Salfit as it stands, it was also an opportunity to build bridges across the Green Line. It was inspiring to see people from both sides working together to protect a shared environment, with the vision of creating a better future in the region.

This piece was contributed by Anika Baset

اختتمت في شيكاغو أواخر شهر نيسان فعاليات مؤتمر “المياه ما بعد الحدود” و الذي تم انعقاده بالتعاون مع جريت ليكس و  سينت لورنس سيسترز إنشياتيف و إيكوبيس الشرق الأوسط و هي جمعية بيئية تعمل على إحلال السلام في منطقة الشرق الأوسط من خلال التعاون مع الدول المجاورة في المجال البيئي للمحافظة على المصادر البيئية والطبيعية المشتركة.

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وشارك في المؤتمر ممثلون عن كل من الولايات المتحدة الأمريكيه و كندا و ممثلون عن كل من بلديات و مجتمعات الأردن ممثلة بسلطة وادي الأردن و على رأسها الأمين العام عطوفة المهندس سعد أبو حمور، كما شارك رئيس بلدية دير علا السيد خليفة الديات. وشارك رؤساء كل من بلديات فلسطين و إسرائيل  السيد حسان الجرمي و السيد ران مولهو بالنيابة عن السيد يوسي فيردي و من الجدير ذكره أن البلديات المشاركة تعمل ضمن برنامج جيران المياه الطيبون لجمعية إيكوبيس الشرق الأوسط.

 

وهدف المؤتمر الى تبادل الخبرات و التكنولوجيا بين البلديات المشاركة في مجال إداره المياه بالإضافة الى معالجة المشاكل المتعلقه بمحدودية مصادر المياه العذبة.

 

و تضمن المؤتمر حديث مفصل حول عدة قضايا على رأسها دور المياه و التعاون المائي في إحلال السلام و التصالح السياسي . كما شمل المؤتمر عرضا حول التدهور البيئي لنهر الأردن و أهمية التعاون و الإداره المشتركة لإعادة تأهيل و إحياء النهر.

 

 ومن الجدير بالذكر أن إعادة تأهيل نهر الأردن قد تصدر قائمة أعمال إيكوبيس حيث أن المنظمة تعمل جاهدة مع كل الأطراف المعنية سواء المحلية أو الإقليمية أو الدولية لإعادة الحياة للنهر المقدس في جميع الأديان السماوية مما سيعود بمنفعة على المجتمعات المحلية القاطنة على ضفاف النهر  و مما له من أثر في إحلال السلام و حل النزاع العربي الإسرائيلي في المنطقة.   

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و أسفر المؤتمر عن التوقيع على مذكرة  تفاهم بين 114 من رؤساء بلديات كل من الولايات المتحدة الأمريكيه و كندا و الأردن و فلسطين و إسرائيل.

 

 

وتنص المذكرة على أنه و بالرغم من إختلاف المواقع الجغرافيه و البيئة الجيو سياسية ما بين جريت ليكس / سينت لورنس سيسترز إنشياتيف  و وادي نهر الأردن الأسفل حيث تمتلك الأولى  ما يعادل من عشرين بالمئة من المياه العذبة الموجودة في العالم والمشتركة بين دولتيين  تتعايشان بسلام، و أما الثانية فهي إحدى الأحواض المهدده التي تقع في أفقر مناطق العالم بالمياه وأشدها اضطرابات سياسية و نزاعات

 

وعلى الرغم من إختلاف المواقع فقد طورت كل من جريت ليكس و سينت لورنس سيسترز إنشياتيف و إيكوبيس الشرق الأوسط من خلال برنامجها جيران المياه الطيبون أساليب متشابه في دعم رؤساء البلديات و الأشخاص المعنيين من المدن و البلدات التي تقع عبر الحدود من أجل حماية المصادر المائية والتي تشكل عماد  الوضع الإقتصادي وتؤثر على نوعية الحياة في تلك المجتمعات  

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وحيث أن تلك المجتمعات تدرك المنافع المشتركة للتعاون الدولي و تبادل الخبرات التقنية و الإدارة المشتركة للموارد الطبيعية و السعي للسلام

 

و حيث أن الأطراف المعنية ملتزمه بتسهيل شراكات “توأمة البلديات” المتعدد الأطراف بين رؤساء البلديات و البلديات لأجل تبادل المعارف و الخبرات و المعلومات المتواجده للعموم بما يتعلق بادارة المياه العابرة للحدود، وأي أنشطة مجتمعية أو انشطة مصممه لإعادة و حماية المصادر المائية  و تحسين وضع المجتمعات والتي تعتمد على تلك المصادر المائية    

 

 

لذلك  ستقوم الأطراف  المعنيه بتسهيل التبادل التكنولوجي، والأعمال التجارية، والتعليمية، وبناء القدرات والتبادل المجتمعي من خلال توأمة البلديات و توأمة العلاقات المائية وما يتضمن ذلك من ورش عمل مشتركة و زيارات ميدانية متبادلة و اتاحة الفرصة للخبراء الفنيين و الإداريين في البلديات و كبار رجال الأعمال ، و الوفود الشبابية ، رهنا بتوافر التمويل، للسعي المشترك لإيجاد مصادر  للتموييل و التي من شأنها  دعم و وتعزيز الأنشطة المرتبطة بهذه الشراكة.

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و في حديث مع رئيس بلديه دير علا في الأردن السيد خليفه الديات عن مشاركته أفادنا بما ياتي

 

“ركز المؤتمر  على قضايا المياه و النزاعات المائية و طرق انشاء تعاون إقليمي مشترك بين مجتمعات الحوض المائي للتغلب على المشاكل المائيه و البيئيه التي تواجه المنطقة و الوصول الى حلول مشتركة.

 

وكان هنالك تجربة وهي البحيرات العظمى “جريتر ليكس” بين أمريكا و كندا كنموذج للتعاون الإقليمي المشترك والذي يمكن تطبيقه في الحوض المتوسط في قضايا المياه المشتركه بين الأردن و فلسطين و اسرائيل.  

قضيتنا الأساسية هي نهر الأردن ففي العقود الأخيره بدأ النهر بالتراجع  نتيجة الإستخدامات السلبيه من جميع الأطراف سواء الأردنية أو الإسرائيليه أو الفلسطينيه.

الفلسطيني بطبيعه الحال و بسبب الإحتلال ليس لديه مجال للوصول الى النهر. فنحن نتحدث بشكل أساسي عن الأردن و إسرائيل .

هذا النهر بحاجة أولا الى إعاده تدفق مياه نظيفة له.  ووقف الإعتداءات عليه من خلال منع انسياب المياه العادمه اليه،  و ضخ كميات اضافيه من كل الأطراف الى نهر الأردن.

ثانيا تفتقر مناطق حوض االنهر في الطرفين الأردن و فلسطين بشكل أساسي لوجود شبكات صرف صحي و هي أحد القضايا البيئيه الهامة .

تطرقنا أيضا الى كيفيه معالجة النفايات الصلبة في وادي الأردن و تحدثنا عن مكب النفايات الموجود في دير علا و ألية استخدامه التقليديه الأوليه و هو بحاجة الى إعادة تأهيل حتى نسهم في وقف التلوث البيئي نتيجة هذا الإستخدام الجائر، على كل من نهر الأردن و على الأرض و البيئة .

أيضا تطرقنا الى مشكله و تحدي أخر و هي شبكات مياه الشرب وهي أصلا بحاجة الى إعادة تأهيل كمرحلة أولى و حتى تكون البنية التحتيه لها بشكل أفضل.

شح المياه هو التحدي الأكبر مما يستوجب منا العمل على ضرورة أن يكون هناك وجود لشبكات الصرف الصحي .

IMG_5257 ثالثا  اعاده استخدام للمياه ، محطات التحليه .

طبعا هذه الخطوات و هذه التحديات التي تحدثنا عنها و الحلول التي افترضناها كبيره. أكبر من طاقة البلديات و أ عتقد أيضا أكبر من طاقة حكومتنا لذلك يستوجب أن يكون هنالك تعاون مشترك لجذب منظمات دوليه و التمويل الدولي للمساهمة ببناء هذه المشاريع في مناطقنا.

المرحلة الأولى التي سأعمل عليها كرئيس بلديه بعد عودتي من المؤتمر هي أن ندعم توجه سلطة وادي الأردن في اعتماد مخطط شمولي لإعاده تأهيل نهر الأردن الأدنى و سنبدأ بالإتصالات بدايه الأسبوع لأنه سيكون هنالك مؤتمر أردني في هذا الموضوع فنريد دعم من بلديات الوادي للسلطه لتكون الممثل للملكة الأردنيه الهاشميه في هذا الجانب، بل ان تكون سلطة وادي الأردن هي الممثل لنا في كل المشاريع لأن تعامل أكثر من طرف لأي دوله داعمه أعتقد أنه سيكون فيه صعوبه و يكون فيه مأخذ علينا .

نعرف أنه ستواجهنا عقبات في إقناع بعض المجتمعات و بعض رؤساء البلديات لكن سيكون هنالك أكثر من لقاء لإقناعهم بضروره المرحله الأولى و هي أن تكون سلطة وادي الأردن الممثل لدعم مشروع إعادة تأهيل نهر الأردن الأدنى.

الخطوة التي سنعمل عليها هي أن نبدأ فيما يتعلق بالصرف الصحي، سنعمل دراسة أوليه في دير علا مبدئيا لتأخذ قنواتها الرسمية من خلال وزارة المياه للبدأ بإعداد دراسة تتعلق بدير علا كمرحلة أولى حتى نقدمها كنموذج من خلال المنظمات التي شاركت في المؤتمر الأخير لمحاولة تبني هذا الموضوع و إيجاد دعم له.

المؤتمر كان من أكثر المشاركات الخارجيه بالنسبة لي نجاحا . التقينا بالعديد من المنظمات التي لها علاقة سواء كان بالصرف الصحي، المياه ، منظمات بمحطات تحلية ، إداره المكبات، معالجة المياه العادمة فكان مفيد لنا و أخذنا أفكار منهم و استمعنا لتجربه غنية من الكنديين و الأمريكان. نأمل أن يكون أيضا على مستوى الوطن العربي وعلى الأردن بشكل أساسي أن تتعدل بعض القوانين بحيث يكون هنالك سرعة في تبني و انجاز بعض المشاريع. و بالمناسبه اريد أن أسجل انطباع مفهوم التقدير و شكر لجامعة الانوي في شيكاغو و لإيكوبيس مدل ايست و لسستر سيتي انترناشونال و لسيتيزن دبلوماسي إنشياتف

حقيقا لم يكن المؤتمر بروتوكولي بل أن المشاركين فيه، و المحاور و الحاضريين كانت كلها غنيه بالمعلومات . المنظمات الموجودة كانت فعلا جادة بالعمل وكانت لديها الرغبه في أن تعمل تشبيك معنا فلذلك كان من انجح المشاركات الخارجيه التي شاركت بها.

أما فيما يتعلق بنص مذكرة التفاهم فعقب قائلا

ما تم التوقيع عليه هو مذكرة تفاهم و ليس إتفاقيه بين البلديات المشاركة في كل من أمريكا و كندا و الأردن و فلسطين و إسرائيل

هذه الإتفاقية بشكل أساسي هي عن تبادل المعلومات، تبادل الخبرات، الخبرات بالإدارة، الخبرات بالمشاريع ، تبادل الزيارات، الهدف أن يكون كل جانب عنده معرفة كاملة عن تجربة الطرف أو الجانب الاخر المقابل في هذا الموضوع.

اعتقد انها خطوه جيده أن يكون هنالك مذكره تفاهم بين هذه الأطراف و خصوصا انه عندنا تجربه غنيه جدا و هي بين كندا و أمريكا.

وأما فيما يتعلق بالمردود الإقتصادي على منطقه الأغوار الأردنية في حال تبني هذه المذكرة رسميا فأوضح:

المذكره هي مذكرة تفاهم لم تصل لمرحلة الإتفاقية حتى تكون ملزمة  لكن اذا ما تم تبنيها على مستوى وادي الأردن في الجانب الأردني و فعلا استفدنا من تجارب باقي الأطراف و استطعنا أن نجعل الحكومه المركزيه تتبناها و تدعمها و تحدث بعض أو تساعد في إحداث نقلة نوعية بما يتعلق بمقترحات المشاريع التي تم تبنيها أو إقتراحها، طبعا سيكون هنالك  نتائج ايجابيه اجتماعيه و سياحية و بيئيه و اقتصادية. نحن  نتحدث عن معضلة كبيره جدا تتعلق في الصرف الصحي و اثاره الجانبية البيئيه و الصحية ، عدم وجود شبكات ، الحفر الإمتصاصية العشوائية و تأثيراتها على الفرد على المدى البعيد و على الأرض و النهر و على المياه. أعتقد أنه سيرفع من المنطقة سياحيا و من هنا سيكون هنالك مردود اقتصادي جيد. و أيضا سيكون للقطاع الزراعي اهتمام كثير لأن هذه المشاريع ستوفر مياه أكثر ومن هنا سيكون هنالك مرور اقتصادي على المنطقة.

IMG_2108وعلق على الإتهامات بالتطبيع بسبب وجود التمثيل الإسرائيلي قائلا:

هذا الجانب لا بد أن نواجهه بشكل يومي و نسمعه بكل المعنيين  مع اسرائيل سواء بالأردن أو بمصر أو في فلسطين .

يوجد ردود فعل سلبية و هي جوفاء

كأردني كمواطن و ليس كرئيس بلدية ، دولتي ذهبت الى خيار السلام مع اسرائيل و كان هذا توجه قيادة جلالة الملك.

كمواطن احترم مليكي واحترم حكومتي. هذه قرارات لأنها هي صاحبة الولاية العامة وهذا من منظور اسلامي وسياسي انه يجب علي كمواطن ان احترم صاحب الولاية العامة وأذهب بنفس الاتجاه سياسيا. هذه ناحية شرعية واضحة في الولاية العامة للحكومة ولجلالة الملك في الاردن وهو اختار هذا الجانب وعلي ان اتبعه واطاعة اولي الامر.

ثانيا بصراحة ماذا جنينا منذ ما بعد 73 لغاية اليوم من فقط التنظير بالتطبيع وعدم اللقاء مع الاسرائيلين وعدم الجلوس معهم.  نحن لا نريدهم ولا نريد ان ندخل في علاقات صداقة نحن ندخل في علاقات شراكة لمصلحتنا، يعني رضيت ام ابيت الآن هذا كيان سياسي يشاطرني اغلب المصادر المائية التي كانت تحت سيطرتي في فترة من الفترات ولابد من التنسيق معه للوصول الى هذه المصادر.

كيف ممكن انا كاردني أو كحكومة اردنية ان اعيد تأهيل نهر الاردن و مصادر المياه الرئيسية والاكتفاء الذاتي للمياه موجود عند اسرائيل. يعني انا من افقر 5 دول في العالم وهو يبيع لاوروبا لماذا؟؟ لأنه استغل كل مصادر وادي الاردن لعمل بحيرات ومحطات تحلية وعنده قدرة على توفير مياه له وأنا لا أقدر. اذا لا بد ان يكون هناك جانب دبلوماسي وان يكون هناك تنسيق مشترك معه لمصلحتي انا.

الان عندما اعمل شبكة صرف صحي في وادي الاردن الذي يتقلص والبحر الميت الذي يتقلص سنة بعد سنة، ما المردود كأردني لو انتهى نهر الاردن؟  ولكن الان سأضع نقطة IMG_0254ونقف ونعيده للحياه.

هذا مكسب لي قبل ان يكون له، بالعكس ما يدور الان وحتى مشاريع السلطة ولجنة المياه المشتركة بين الاردن واسرائيل، معظم الامور لصالح الاردن لأنها تفرض على اسرائيل ان تضخ كميات مياه اضافية لنهر الاردن لاستخدامها في الزراعة والمياه، بالعكس الاردن في بعض السنوات التي مرت كان يجبر اسرائيل بنصف الموسم ان ي ترسل له مياه خارج الاتفاقية …. لو لم يكن هناك تواصل وشبكات تواصل فهي غير ملزمة.  اتفاقية المياه ملزمة لفترة معينة وبنقطة معينة وبحد معين .

اذا لا بد ان يكون هنالك منحى جديد عندنا ،واعتقد انه يجب ان نعطي فرصة كما اعطينا فرصة كبيرة للذين يقاومون التطبيع على مدار سنوات كثيرة انهم كانو يناهضو ويقاطعو ولم نكن نعارض أو ننتقدهم أن يعطو فرصة للتيار الموجود الذي يحاول ان يستغل كل لحظة من التنسيق لاحداث تعاون لخدمة البلد، نحن ما استفدنا من تنظيرنا ومقاطعتنا للناس فلنجرب هذه الفتره  قد نحصل على شيء، فلنعطي هذه العشر سنوات على الاقل لهذا الجيل و لهذا التيار، بعد 10 سنوات نقيم تجربتنا اذا لم نصل لشئ نرجع للمربع الاول ونقف.

وبالحديث عن تبادل الخبرات مع الجانبين الفلسطيني و الاسرائيلي أفاد:

IMG_0213عرفت من خلال النظير الفلسطيني عن الوضع المائي والبيئي عنده. وللأسف بعض المعلوما ت التي عرفناها انه في بعض القرى وبعض المدن وحتى في قريته ومدينته أو منطقته ، الوضع مائيا معدوم. لا يوجد وصول لنهر الاردن نهائيا ،ولازالت بعض القرى بدون شبكات مياه وبعض المدن تصلها المياه مرة واحدة كل 3 اشهر، الصرف الصحي يكاد يكون ايضا معدوم .   حقيقة تلمسنا معاناه كبيرة وحاجة منهم لإيجاد من يساعدهم  ليصلو لمصادر المياه او يشربو مياه فيها على الأقل ابسط معايير السلامة العامة.

يعني دوله لها حد أو شريط طويل على نهر الأردن و لكن لا تصل الى 1 كم من هذا الشريط.

إذن نحن لم نرى تجربه بل رأينا معاناه و رأينا مشكلة و تحدي كبير جدا بحاجة لأن يكون هنالك جهود اضافيه، و هم معنيين أكثر بتنسيق إقليمي مشترك حتى نقدر أن نصل لمرحلة جيده لإنعاشهم داخليا.

و حقيقه، المياه التي ستصلهم ستساعدهم في الثبات على أرضهم. فأنا استهجن من يهاجم جانب فلسطيني سواء منظمة أو بلدية أو أي شخص بسبب  جلوسه مع نظيره الاسرائيلي أو وجوده مع الاردنين في لقاء مع الإسرائيليين  . أنا أصل لك الماء لأثبتك و أوطنك و ليس لتهجيرك . بالعكس الإسرائيلي كحكومه هي مع تهجير الناس . نحن محظوظين لوجود بعض المنظمات داخل اسرائيل التي تعزز و تدعم وجود مشاريع لصالح القرى و المدن الفلسطينيه.

IMG_5648أما عن الجانب الإسرائيلي فهو الجانب الغني مائيا ضمن حوضنا و لا بد من التنسيق معه . يوجد إستعداد  لإقامه بعض المشاريع على الجانبين .

محاولة الوجود معهم، اقناعهم بالوضع بأننا نريد العمل معهم كشركاء و ليس كأعداء،هذا ايضا يعطيهم زخم داخل الوسط الإسرائيلي ليدعمو التواصل لأن الهدف  الأول معهم أن نوصل لهم رسالة بأننا نريد التعاون كشركاء و ليس كأعداء.

حاولت أن أوصل رسالة أنني كأردني و حالة كل أردني أن ننظر اليكم كشركاء ضمن هذا الحوض.  نحن نريد أن نتعامل مع قضايا إنسانية بحته، بقضايا مائية بحته بعيدا عن السياسة ، أما في السياسة فلي موقفي الخاص. هذه الرسالة مهمة جدا، و وجدت تجاوب و اعتقد أنه يجب أن نركز عليها و هو أن التنسيق مع الجانب الأخر لأننا شركاء بهذا الحوض و الشراكة الحقيقيه حتى يستفيد منها صانع القرار السياسي يجب في المرحلة الأولى كمجتمع أن أشعر بالأمان و الإحترام المتبادل بين الطرفيين حتى يتحقق الإستقرار السياسي و الأمني وهو مرتبط باستقرار جارك الفلسطيني و بعده شريكك الاردني ضمن هذا الحوض. هذه الرسالة التي ركزت عليها ووجدت تجاوب.

الرجاء زيارة الرابط للإطلاع على نص مذكرة التفاهم باللغة الإنجليزية:

http://foeme.org/www/?module=projects&record_id=240

http://foeme.org/uploads/MoU_GLSL_Final_Signed.pdf 

   الدائرة الإعلامية لمنظمة إيكوبيس الشرق الأوسط مكتب عمان 

IMG_0213 

 

 

 

Posted by: EcoPeace Middle East | May 4, 2015

May 1st, 2015 – EcoPeace Environmental Peacemaking Newsletter

Celebrating Earth Day 2015 on the Lower Jordan River

Newsletter01EcoPeace Middle East celebrated Earth Day this year with events along both sides of the Jordan River.

In Israel, U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro,Newsletter02 U.S. government representatives, local mayors and government authorities, and a whole lot of kids participated in the event along the Lower Jordan River! Ambassador Shapiro joined students from the local elementary school in a clean-up activity; he paddled a canoe down a short stretch of the still-clean section of the River with us, and was then guided by the local authorities to see present, and future, rehabilitation projects. Click here for more photos in this Facebook album, and here for media coverage from the event.

Newsletter03Across the river in Jordan, Good Water Neighbors alumni reunited at the Sharhabil Bin Hassneh EcoPark. The alumni youth organized and led discussions on topics such as their role as environmental ambassadors, held a clean-up activity throughout the EcoPark, and shared their future vision of the Jordan River and their roles leaders in this effort with EcoPeace and fellow alumni participants.

For more information on the Earth Day events in Israel and Jordan, please read our blog and click here for more photos in Jordan!  A meaningful and productive Earth Day celebration all around!

Good Water Neighbors Youth Representatives visit South Korea!

Newsletter04This month, EcoPeace Middle East sent three youth representatives—one from Jordan, one from Palestine, and one from Israel—to South Korea for the World Water Forum and for two adjoining youth summits. The youth summits – the World Youth Parliament for Water (WYPW) and the Asia-Pacific Youth Parliament for Water (APYPW) – bring together youth leaders and future water professionals (ages 17-30) from around the world to set a vision for the future of water and to plan concrete actions to achieve those goals. Mahmoud Dreaat, EcoPeace’s Palestinian representative, was elected Vice President of APYPW and received an award for Exemplary Participation at the APYPW conference.  Look out for a blog post soon!

Cross Border “Watershed Forums” site tours and meetingsNewsletter05

Back at home, our team hosted a series of tours and site visits as part of our regional efforts to create cross border watershed forums within our Good Water Neighbors cross-border communities.

This month we held a tour for olive mill owners to visit olive mills in the Galilee of Israel to learn how to manage the pollutant olive mill waste, whose substances can damage Waste Water Treatment Facilities. Eight Palestinian olive mill owners mainly from the Tulkarm area and eight local environmental activists from Emek Hefer participated in a tour guided by experts from the Israeli Ministry of Environment and the head of Israel Olive Farmers Association. Participants came to learn and share knowledge of the current best practices to dispose of this waste. After a full day, all participants expressed their will to continue in cooperation and find both short term and long term solutions to the shared problem.

newsletter06Earlier this month, a delegation from Salt and Balqa governorates in Jordan were hosted by our local watershed forum in Auja, Palestine. Governor of Jericho, Mr. Majed Al Fitiani, welcomed the delegation before they continued on their site visit to the Auja EcoCenter, Auja spring and its dam, the Qasr el Yehud baptism site, a local Palestinian farm, and the Arab Al Ka’abneh School in order to better understand the water reality on the Palestinian side of the Jordan River.

At the end of April, the Jordanian forum members hosted a Newsletter07reciprocal visit for the Palestinian delegation for a tour of their community. After a warm welcome from the Mayor of Salt, participants visited the Bakoura and Hazeer Springs, pumping stations in the Shaib Valley, and Waste Water Treatment Plants in Salt and Azraq to learn about the water realities in the cities. These two visits served as the first step in cross border cooperation efforts, as delegations discussed shared water problems in the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea in particular

Newsletter08EcoPeace hosted a cross border site visit to Battir in Palestine, with local stakeholders and members of the Springs Rehabilitation Forum in Mate Yehuda. They toured along the ancient terraces of Battir, met with local activists of the Battir 2020 forum, and together discussed the challenges of preserving the unique landscape.

The “Good Water Neighbors” project is funded by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA).

Tour Guides from Israel, Jordan and Palestine visiting “Green Economy Initiatives” in Jordan

Newsletter09A group of 15 tour guides and managers of ecotourism sites from Israel, Palestine and Jordan spent 3 days together visiting ‘green initiatives’ in Jordan last month.  The visit opened with a comprehensive tour of EcoPeace’s Sharhabil Bin Hassneh EcoPark in Jordan, learning about its ecofacilities and sustainability vision.

Also included were visits to ecotourismNewsletter10 projects in the northern area of Jordan, in Ajloun, such as the beautiful hiking trails in the region and local initiatives for women empowerment (the Calligraphy House and the Soap House), ending with a visit to Pella’s archeological site.  It was exciting to see how some participants already began exploring cross border exchanges – ones that will benefit the local community and bring business to their own enterprises as well.  Click here for our Facebook album of photos of the tour.

The “Green Economy Initiatives” project is supported by USAID’s Conflict Management & Mitigation Program.

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Newsletter11Under the patronage of the Palestinian Water Authority and the Governors of Jericho and Tubas, EcoPeace held a national workshop to present the Draft-NGO Palestinian Masterplan to rehabilitate the Jordan River. With over 100 participants from various Palestinian authorities, including the Ministry of Agriculture and the Water Authority, municipalities and local councils, and other important stakeholders, our Palestinian team presented the national masterplan and collected feedback from a series of discussions with participants. With great enthusiasm, the participants showed admiration of the work and are hoping to see the masterplan implemented in the near future.

This workshop is part of EcoPeace’s Regional NGO Master Plan (SWIM-JR) Project, supported by the European Union’s Sustainable Water Integrated Management (SWIM) Programme.

EcoPeace Directors develop international partnerships to advance on regional priorities

Newsletter12EcoPeace’s three co-directors were invited to attend the 2015 Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship in Oxford, United Kingdom this month. Gidon Bromberg, our Israeli director gave a speech on the state of the Jordan River and discussed how interreligious cooperation can contribute to the efforts to restore what Jews, Muslims, and Christians regard as the holiest river on earth.  For further information, please see this blog post by Gidon Bromberg or watch his speech at the 2015 Skoll World Forum here.

Newsletter13EcoPeace directors and local mayors from Israel, Palestine, and Jordan signed a Memorandum of Understanding to create a “Sister Waters” partnership between Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative and EcoPeace Middle East at a summit held in Chicago on April 23rd -24th called “Water After Borders.” The goal of this partnership is to foster exchanges through sister city and sister water relationships. Among the activities envisioned are joint workshops and visits by youth delegations and water experts. This effort would not have been possible without the dedication and support of the conference organizer, Rachel Havrelock. To read an article about the summit in the Jerusalem Post, please click here. EcoPeace’s directors and mayors were also interviewed on “Go Green Radio” during their visit to Chicago.

EcoPeace’s Jordan River Rehabilitation Project is supported by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and the Osprey Foundation. Our Water Cannot Wait Campaign is supported by the Skoll Global Threats Fund and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

Posted by: EcoPeace Middle East | April 29, 2015

Earth Day 2015 – A Personal Reflection

I have been working at EcoPeace for 9 months and have spent much of that time working on Jordan River projects. I can easily give the elevator pitch: how the Lower Jordan River is flowing at less than 5% of its original flow, how it is a heavily polluted body of water, how the river’s decline is causing problems for millions of migratory birds and threatening the Dead Sea and the people living by its shores.

I was 13 the last time I visited the Jordan River. My family went tubing in the Upper Jordan River on a hot summer afternoon, and I remember being fascinated that I was floating between two countries (though, now I realize I was still very much in Israeli territory). Floating down the river at 13, I was oblivious to the notion that a river could be polluted. I was out in nature and nature, as opposed to cityscapes, were clean and pristine places, at least to my mind.

Coming back, almost a decade later, even with a now trained and attentive eye, the river looks the same, calmly winding down a surprisingly green landscape. Perhaps it is because our visit began in the still clean section of the river. But for many of the other tour participants (many of whom were from the US Embassy and USAID) this was their second trip to the Lower Jordan River in recent memory and they, certainly, were able to tell the difference.

Enjoying the recreational value that a clean stretch of the Jordan River can offer

Enjoying the recreational value that a clean stretch of the Jordan River can offer

When they weren’t hearing about the progress that has been made in the past few years—the construction of a new wastewater treatment plant, the release of 9MCM of water annually from the Sea of Galilee into the Lower Jordan River, the reconstruction of wetlands to restore endemic species, and the advances in public awareness—the participants recalled their last visit to the Jordan River, when sewage flowed freely and the fumes that wafted off the bubbling sludge were less than pleasant to be around. They were quite impressed by the change.

Signs of change - "Returning Life to the River" thanks to the efforts of so many people.

Signs of change – “Returning Life to the River” thanks to the efforts of so many people.

It was an exciting experience for me, as well. My conception of the river had been the elevator pitch, not the successes. You tend to get so focused on the rhetoric of the problem, that you can overlook the successes already taking place.

There is still a lot of work that needs to be done to successfully rehabilitate the Jordan River. After all, what we saw on this tour is only a small portion of the river. Making the entire Jordan River a success story will require effort, a serious political (and financial) commitment from the governments and people of Jordan, Israel, and Palestine (and, of course, generous international donors). But, from what we saw, it is clear that the work of EcoPeace and other stakeholders have paved a promising beginning for the rehabilitation of the Jordan River.

This post was contributed by Jessye Waxman

Posted by: EcoPeace Middle East | April 27, 2015

Celebrating Earth Day Across Borders

Wednesday 22nd of April marked Earth Day, a day that rekindles the commitment people have shown in community activism throughout the year, and broadens support for environmental programmes in the public. Earth Day is celebrated globally by people of all backgrounds, faiths, and nationalities. The week, and in some places even the month surrounding Earth Day have become focal points for environmental activities and festivals. EcoPeace took on Earth Day and celebrated it in their own way, with a Good Water Neighbours alumni camp in Jordan, and a celebration of the many years of work on the banks of the River Jordan in Israel.

Overlooking the reservoir, alumni could be proud of their efforts to maintain the natural beauty of this area.

Overlooking the reservoir, alumni could be proud of their efforts to maintain the natural beauty of this area.

The alumni youth met at the Sharhabil Bin Hassneh EcoPark in Jordan on the weekend before Earth Day to discuss their sense of identity, and whether they consider themselves as ambassadors for the environment and cross-border peace. The difficulties of conflict were discussed, as were the tools that they would need to explain cross-border environmental work, form good arguments, and inspire visions for a sustainable future.

Led by EcoPeace staff, the alumni worked through team building activities on the first day before the youth themselves begun to take a more active leadership role on the second day. They held a clean-up of the Park, and then guided each other through games and later arguments for the issues they care most about in their communities. The camp concluded with a shared meal in Pella, over which their visions for the future and the routes they might want to take to get there were shared, both as individuals, as a group, and as a wider part of the EcoPeace organisation.

Enjoying the recreational value that a clean stretch of the Jordan River can offer

Enjoying the recreational value that a clean stretch of the Jordan River can offer

Earth Day was very busy in Israel too. The U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro and USAID representatives were invited to join the Mayor of the Jordan Valley Regional Council, representatives of the Kinneret and Lower Jordan River Drainage authorities, and many of the local children in a trip to the Jordan river. The ambassador joined the elementary school children in a clean-up of the river banks before canoeing in a section of the river. Being able to enjoy the recreational potential of just this small section of the River highlighted the benefits rehabilitation could have along its whole length, and the ambassador was then taken to see some present and potential future rehabilitation projects.

It was a great opportunity for the ambassador to see the improvements that had come about since his last visit in 2011, and for the community to reflect on the fruits of all their hard work over the years in improving their environment and the state of the river. We would like to thank each and every person who has worked with EcoPeace this year a very happy Earth Day, and hope they feel inspired to continue their efforts in the years to come.

The sign says

The sign says “Returning life to the River”. Clean water is now flowing from the Kinneret straight into the riverbed.

This post is contributed by Helen Wilkinson, EcoPeace’s Intern at the Amman Office. 

Posted by: EcoPeace Middle East | April 26, 2015

Activism on Environmental Issues & the Role of Civil Society Organizations

503On April 7th 2015, EcoPeace represented the civil society with a panel under “Activism on Environmental Issues” in the NEA Environment, Science, Technology and Health Officers Workshop. Mr Abdul Rahman Sultan, Assistant Director and Sharhabil Bin Hassneh EcoPark Manager spoke about the organizations efforts in raising communities’ awareness of environmental issues, and its relationship with other civil society organizations and local governments, he also introduced the EcoPeace model of working to the well-attended workshop.

Mr Sultan began by introducing the organization’s unique trilateral structure, so that sustainable regional development and peace can be promoted with local support. The Jordan River Rehabilitation Project was used as an example of this work. The need for trans-boundary efforts to restore this culturally and ecologically important waterway was highlighted, to ensure that the work of one party is not undone by the actions of their neighbours. By taking a “top-down” approach in research, lobbying and advocacy, in partnership with a “bottom-up” approach in community and grass-roots work, EcoPeace Middle East has been successful in gaining a large amount of buy-in to advance political will in removing pollution from, and returning water to, the Jordan River.

496The rehabilitation of the Jordan River will still not fully restore the River, but it will help to prevent the complete collapse of the ecosystem. One of the key changes that will need to be made is in agricultural practices. Farmers currently pay nothing for the first 150,000m3 of water they pump from their private wells in Jordan, however over 620,000 tonnes of fruits and vegetables are exported each year, meaning water is exported at an artificially low price. EcoPeace have worked with farming communities to trial water-efficient irrigation technologies, and change the crops that are being grown, since 70% of agricultural water use is on water-intensive crops. Some economically sound changes to water use in farming practices could maintain the water supplies for groundwater.

494Mr Sultan continued to explain how important the Jordan River is on the international scale, with a resolution in the US senate supporting the cooperation of Israel, Palestine and Jordan in halting the degradation of the Jordan River and Dead Sea. The Covenant for the Jordan River has also been signed by many religious leaders in the recognition of the need for rehabilitation, so even though the struggle seems uphill, there is much support for the action that is being taken.

This post is contributed by EcoPeace’s Intern Helen Wilkinson at the Amman Office 

Welcoming the American Women of Jordan

489EcoPeace Middle East acts through change, and one of the greatest tools for change is education. We are unlikely to change our behaviours unless we understand why, so EcoPeace has always tried to be open and objective in providing information on the environmental reality within our region. Understanding that water was a key issue for Jordan, “American Women of Amman” contacted us to gain some insight into the water, and for some guidance in what they can do to help.

On the 6th of April, 2015, Ms. Yana Abu Taleb, deputy director of EcoPeace in Amman met with the American Women of Jordan for a presentation on water reality. In the presentation, Ms. Abu Taleb explained how freshwater is not equally distributed across our planet, and that Jordan is one of the world’s most water poor countries. Despite this, Jordan has managed to achieve one of the highest levels of sanitation in the Middle East and North Africa region, and can generally achieve the World Health Organisations recommended volumes of 100 litres of water per capita per day, though their ability to do so is falling. The tough job of the Ministry for Water was explained, and how their past reliance on groundwater sources has had to change, as it led to overharvesting, taking water from the environment faster than it can be replaced.

The ways in which the national water deficit was being reduced were explained: Prevention of water regulation infringements, expanding the use of treated wastewater, improving agriculture practices and efficiency of water use in food production, education of the community to reduce water waste, and cooperating with others to find sustainable solutions for water resources in Jordan.

After explaining EcoPeace’s role in campaigning, scientific research, and education in the community, Ms. Abu Taleb highlighted the following action points to increase water security: have the courage to speak out on water issues that matter to you, become more water aware so more water can be saved, and prevent climate change, which will safeguard our water resources for the future.

This talk was followed up by inviting the American Women of Amman to visit the Sharhabil Bin Hassneh EcoPark on April 22nd 2015. Here they were able to see first-hand the multiple benefits of conserving water. Led by the Park Director, Mr. Abdul Rahman Sultan, they were given a tour of the park and its facilities. The EcoPark 035protects many of the ecosystem functions that would have been lost had the area been developed less sympathetically, or converted to agricultural use. The park gives space for nature, to maintain biodiversity; it regulates our atmosphere by the plants that grow there, and prevents soil run off and degradation as it limits grazing to manageable levels.   Wetland areas are fantastic ecosystem service providers as they can assimilate wastes and pollutants, stopping them from damaging other ecosystems. The benefits to the local people must not be forgotten – the natural aesthetics provided by the park can lift the spirits, and the recreational opportunities for picnicking, walking and biking are very much enjoyed.

We thank the American Women of Jordan for inviting us to speak with them. We hope that they felt welcome on their visit to Sharhabil Bin Hassneh EcoPark, and that we will see them again there soon. Finally, we hope they have been given the tools to save water, and be the creators of change for the benefit of all.

This post is contributed by EcoPeace’s Intern Helen Wilkinson at the Amman Office

Green Economy Initiatives holds seminar on EcoTourism Business Development

EcoPeace’s “Green Economy Initiatives” (GEI) project held a 2-day cross border meeting this month with Israeli Professor m1
Dr. Uri Mayer Chissik – who leads an education program on food heritage and community involvement – and staff from our Sharhabil Bin Hassneh EcoPark (SHE) in Jordan.  A partnership is being explored between the two, whereby Dr. Chissik would like to give training workshops to the SHE EcoPark staff on “food foraging”, an activity that can then be incorporated into the environmental education programs offered at the Park.

m2Also this month, the GEI project held the Final Seminar of the business consultant project phase at the Sharhabil bin Hassneh EcoPark in Jordan.  This seminar concluded the first stage of developing the cross-border touristic itineraries between Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian Tour Operators and Tour Guides, choosing the best programs that will now continue on to the marketing phase.  We are delighted that 3 itineraries can be marketed shortly, benefitting the regional partners as well as the selected green initiatives in the local communities. To see more photos from the event, please click here.

In addition, many one-day youth seminars took place this month in our 3 EcoParks; in Ein Gedi in Israel, Auja in Palestine m3and Sharhabil bin Hassneh in Jordan. The seminars aim to increase environmental awareness, instill environmental responsibility as well as teach ‘green economy’ principles.  Youth site visits to the nearby touristic sites on the Jordan River or Dead Sea offer a good venue to further discuss the benefits that eco-tourism initiatives could bring to the local population.

Triathlon / Duathlon at Sharhabil Bin Hassneh (SHE) EcoPark

m4On March 28th, 100 participants ran in a triathlon/duathlon at our SHE EcoPark in Jordan. The Triathlon combined open-water swimming, on and off-road cycling and cross-country running.  The Duathlon consisted of a cross-country run, a cycle leg and a second cross-country run. Check out more 5pictures on our facebook page!

Have you seen the physical improvements in our Sharhabil Bin Hassneh EcoPark in
Jordan?

Come to the Park to see the new outdoor dining area – we are leveling the ground and tiling it with interlocking outdoor tiles, erecting a new kitchen structure and building low stone walls to lock it all in place.  We will soon be serving and enjoying our meals in this new setting.  Come by and visit!

The “Green Economy Initiatives” project is supported by USAID’s Conflict Management & Mitigation Program.

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“Good Water Neighbors” share their “water messages” on a global stage.

m6Many Good Water Neighbor youth events coincided with World Water Day this year. Youth Water Trustees met and toured their joint water basins of the Alexander/Zomar stream, Abu Nar/Hadera stream, Lower Jordan River, the Soreq stream and the Yarkon stream. They learnt about hydrology, the ecological history of the streams and enjoyed the blossoming nature of the spring season. You can see what the Water Trustees have to say about water on the international “Water messengers” site. To see some of our Palestinian, Jordanian, and Israeli and water messages, follow the links!

Over 1000 residents living along the banks of the Jordan River attended the “Streaming the Jordan” event on March 21stm7an event hosted by EcoPeace Middle East, the Kinneret Drainage Authority, and the Jordan Valley Regional Council. The event brought together residents to educate them about the changes to the river, to bring people back to the river to enjoy its natural surroundings, and to empower the community to be part of the rehabilitation and the future maintenance of the river. The event included a 4.5 km walk along the banks of the river as well as music, food, and natural art activities for children.

m8Also this month, two of our alumni water trustees held a “cross border water” activity for youth and represented EcoPeace in the Emek Hefer Regional Council Annual March. In the activity prepared by the alumni, youth were instructed to carry a glass of water along a “stream route with no borders.” On the way they encountered many obstacles: oil, hazardous chemicals (red syrup), and salt, that were put in the glasses of water. A “farmer” even asked for youth to pour their now polluted water on his plants. The activity illustrated that joint efforts are needed to keep our shared water clean.

In line with the Good Water Neighbors project’s new “basin approach”, EcoPeace together with the HaBesor / Shikma m9Drainage Authority held a round table discussion aimed at creating a full picture regarding all sources of pollution of the Hebron / Besor Basin, and to better understand the responsibility of each stakeholder in the basin. Participants included: HaBesor Drainage Authority, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Environmental Protection, representatives of the local Farmer’s Association of Bney Shimon RC and representatives of the sewage treatment department in the Water Authority.

 

Battir’s WATCH DAY event!

m10Battir’s inclusion on the World Monument Fund’s (WMF) Watch List last year helped to bring attention to the unique landscape of the village.  This action, along with many other efforts, made possible the listing of Battir as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This month, EcoPeace partnered with the Battir village in a special Watch Day event in the context of the WMF Watch List; it was a great day packed full of educational and fun activities that showcased the beautiful landscape of the area.

This event was partially sponsored by the World Monuments Fund Watch Day

“Good Water Neighbors” in Bosnia off to a good start!

News from our friends in Bosnia, from the Center for Ecology and Energy, tell us that youth are already learning how to monitor the water quality in the Spreca River, and are looking forward to sharing and comparing their results with their m11neighboring community soon. Click here for more photos

This comes after a rocky beginning though, where one school suddenly backed out of its participation in the program, fearing their reputation from making contact with the ‘other’ ethnic community, while another school that was then approached, jumped at the opportunity to join, citing it as the best way to build bridges across their ethnic divide. This is an all-too familiar scenario for EcoPeace, and we say BRAVO to the CEE team for navigating through this hurdle and explaining the benefits of working together.

 Intractable Peacebuilding: EcoPeace’s environmental peacemaking model

m12EcoPeace Middle East is proud to be one of the organizations profiled in this new research study “Intractable Peacebuilding: Innovation and Perseverance in the Israeli-Palestinian Context” undertaken by Ned Lazarus from the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, at George Mason University.

The paper profiles initiatives that have established models and strategies for peacebuilding in a hostile context, which can serve as points of reference and inspiration to people engaged in similar struggles around the world.  Read more in this blog, and in the paper itself.

The “Good Water Neighbors” project is funded by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA).

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Jordan River Rehabilitation: a snapshot of success

EcoPeace has pulled together years of hard work (highlighted in many of these newsletters) to develop a portfolio of m13achievements in our Jordan River Rehabilitation efforts. From the onset of Good Water Neighbors activities in the early 2000s, to the release of flow to the Jordan River and construction of wastewater treatment plants along its banks, EcoPeace can finally look back at what the original vision of Jordan River Rehabilitation was, and watch it flourish. There is still so much more to be done!

As part of our continued effort, EcoPeace Middle East’s Jordan River Rehabilitation Program with the support of the Swedish International Development Agency, is developing the first ever Model Basin Commission for the Jordan River. This effort aims to propose a governance structure for the Lower Jordan River based on best practices and lessons learned from existing transboundary basin commissions.  The call for proposals and terms of reference for this commissioned program can be found here.

Also this month, EcoPeace continued to lead tours of the Jordan River, exposing hundreds of new individuals to the environmental challenges of the Lower Jordan River. There is no better way to involve the public in rehabilitation efforts – that will ultimately pressure local decision makers into action – than showing them the issues first-hand and on-site. These tours also included participants from faith-communities.

Auja Eco Center hosts Palestinian Minister of Water, Eng. Mazen Ghoneim

m14On March 2nd, Eng. Mazen Ghoneim, new head of the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) visited the Auja Eco Center and Jordan Valley. To shed light on the water and sanitation challenges with the Jordan Valley, EcoPeace Middle East took the minister from the Eco Center to the Jordan River and Dead Sea.

With a visit to the Palestinian Salt Factory and Qasr El Yehud Baptism Site, EcoPeace presented the efforts to rehabilitate the Jordan River and Dead Sea – important to the environment, water resources, and the Palestinian economy at large. To see pictures from the event, please follow this link.

Jordan River Faith Based Program represented abroad

m16This month, EcoPeace representatives travelled across the globe to San Francisco to participate in a conference titled “Global Greening through the Grassroots” organized by the United Religious Initiative “URI”, a global grassroots interfaith network. The m15conference formalized the creation of an “Environmental Resource Cooperation Circle.” As part of the conference, EcoPeace representatives traveled to the San Francisco Grace Cathedral to stand in solidarity and blessing at the 50 year commemorative signing of the United Nations June 25, 1945.  For more information on the conference, please read this blog post.

CNN “The Wonder List”: Is the Dead Sea Dying?

On September 16th, 2014, EcoPeace representatives escorted CNN’s film crew in a visit to the Dead Sea, the Mouth of the Jordan River, our Sharhabil Bin Hassneh EcoPark, Madaba in Jordan and the Dead Sea in Israel. “The River Jordan is m17nearly dead” declares CNN’s Bill Weir in his article “Is the Dead Sea Dying?” The full episode about the Dead Sea, as part of the “Wonder List” series, was aired on March 29th at 10:00pm EST with EcoPeace well featured.

There Once Was a Sea

18EcoPeace is also featured in the “There Once Was a Sea” art-house documentary produced by the company “Daring House”. This is a full-length movie, fully shot, that describes the beauty, the problems and the hopes of the Dead Sea. It is an act of love and a call for action, but they need help to complete post-production!

A percentage of each donation they receive goes to EcoPeace!  Visit their website and help spread the word!

EcoPeace’s Jordan River Rehabilitation Project is supported by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and the Osprey Foundation.

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Posted by: EcoPeace Middle East | March 24, 2015

A URI Environmental Network Workshop: A Renewed Hope for the Jordan River

11-15th March, 2015

San Francisco, CA

“We, people of diverse religions, spiritual expressions and indigenous traditions throughout the world …. unite to heal and protect the earth … unite in responsible cooperative action to bring the wisdom and values of our religions, spiritual expressions and indigenous traditions to bear on the economic, environmental, political and social challenges facing our Earth community.“             

Quote from URI’s Preamble.

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055 With these wise words in the backdrop, a group of environmentalists and religious figures gathered to create a platform to connect in a workshop titled “Global Greening through the Grassroots”.  The workshop organized by United Religious Initiative “URI”; a global grassroots interfaith network with a presence in 85 countries through its ever growing Cooperation Circles, culminated in the creation of “URI Environmental Resource CC”.

The Network will provide a venue for environmentalists, religious figures, and URI Environment Workshopvarious CCs to exchange experiences, best practices, discuss challenges, and potential partnering opportunities while maintaining emphasis on spirituality, bridge building and empathy.

The five days’ workshop included various presentations, visit to the Muir woods, Coyote Point by the Pacific Ocean to learn about Bay restoration, tour of Grace Cathedral, also included commemorating UN World Water Day, and an invocation ceremony at Fairmont Hotel.

During the workshop, EcoPeace Middle East representative presented a model of close collaboration between the environment and religion that stands at stark 10622823_1587534178159220_601603898867867966_nopposition with current prevalent strict dichotomies between religion and all other fields.  The relationship is inseparable as manifested in the case of the Jordan River. The sacred River in the three Abrahamic Faiths has been severely polluted with sewage and fishpond waters.  96% of its waters have been diverted by neighboring countries for irrigation purposes reducing the once Might River to a small stream.  Nonetheless, its sacredness is a turning point in its rehabilitation.

 EcoPeace, a regional organization that works on environmental peacebuilding, took notice of its current deterioration and the need for its rehabilitation, joined hands with researchers, local and regional communities, politicians and religious leaders in a campaign titled “Save the Jordan”.  The aim of the campaign is to bring the reality of the River to the forefront of community discussions and encourage action-based community-wide responses.  It also attempts to leverage support from communities to help create political will among regional decision makers to act towards the Rivers rehabilitation.

A faithbased toolkit was also produced to support the campaign consisting of briefing documents, sourcebooks as well as postcards, presentations, films, flyers. All were designed uniquely and separately for Muslim, Christians and Jewish Communities to advance multi-faith discussions and joint actions. Most importantly is the Jordan River covenant that offers a shared vision for the Jordan valley. The organization encourages broad endorsement of the covenant as a call for decision-makers on all sides of the valley to transform a vision into a reality.

With its relentless efforts, support from local and regional communities, endorsements and support from religious figures and organizations, EcoPeace Middle East takes pride in the fact that for the first time in decades,  fresh water is running in the Jordan River.

candle candle 1

logoFor more information about the campaign or find out ways to support the Rivers Rehabilitation visit: www.savethejordan.com

Or contact Ms Anwar Abu Hamour who is leading the campaign at the Amman Office: anwar@foeme.org

For more articles about the event, visit the links

http://euphrates.org/what-is-water-to-you-celebrate-un-world-water-day-march-22nd/

http://euphrates.org/is-there-a-connection-between-religion-and-the-environment-you-bet/

For a picture album, click here 

This post was contributed by Samar M. Salma, Media Officer/ PR & Projects Coordinator at the Amman Office.

“Good Water Neighbors” project holds several cross-border youth camps

EcoPeace held two cross border youth visits at our Auja Eco Center this past month; the first one for Palestinian and Jordanian girls from the shared Wadi Qelt / Madaba watershed, and girls from the East Jerusalem community of f1Surbaher located in the Kidron watershed. Together, they toured the city of Jericho, had fun riding the cable car up to the Mount of Temptation, and later, presented the more f2serious issues they prepared regarding the water realities and environmental problems in each of their local communities. Not surprisingly, the group learned that they all have similar challenges, and realized the importance of cooperating in order to solve shared problems. Additional activities included painting the Geodesic dome in the EcoCenter, and then travelling to Battir to hike and learn about the terraced landscape area and its ecological importance.

The second youth camp – for Palestinian, Jordanian and Israeli youth that live around the Wadi Abu Nar / Hadera

f3watershed, and also youth from North Shouneh and Irbid in Jordan – included fun ice f4breaking activities and warm up games on the 1st day, followed by presentations about different environmental topics such as recycling, renewable energy, and the shared water resources in the region.  Additional activities had the youth rappelling down the side of the Auja EcoCenter building (a first for many of the youth!), followed by a biking activity in the village, and ending with a visit to the city of Jericho.

A third cross border youth camp took place this month in the Jordan Valley area with Jordanian, Israeli and f5Palestinian ‘Water Trustees’. The focus of this camp was building a vision for the “Peace Island” at Naharayim / Bakoura and understanding that rehabilitation of the Jordan River needs regional cooperation. In teams, the youth explored the history of the Island – its special location as a transiting area throughout the decades – and discussed if it is possible to turn it into a meeting point again. Another team measured the rate of flow in the Yarmouk River and compared the flow in the past – and the present. A third team explored the flora of the area, and then prepared a delicious Hubieza snack for everyone!

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“Good Water Neighbors” project holds 2 cross border watershed meetings for adult residents

On February 5th, EcoPeace organized a joint tour for Israeli human rights activists of Machsom Watch, together withf6 the head of the Salfit Joint Services Council and local Palestinian Village Council representatives. The aim of the visit was to detect pollution sources to the Wadi Qana / Yarkon watershed, and to discuss how best to prevent sewage from flowing in the stream.

The joint tour offered an opportunity for participants to exchange knowledge and further raise awareness about the challenges of this cross border river basin.

f7Another cross border tour was held with a group of 20 Israelis and Palestinians on February 8th, to three water springs in the Israeli Mateh Yehuda Regional Council area; springs in Ein Karem, Ein Rafa and Sataf. The group was joined by local tour guides who explained in great detail the history of each spring and about local advocacy efforts being undertaken to preserve and improve these (and other) water resources. To further support the local community, the group ate lunch at a small, local business in Ein Rafa, run out of a family’s home, and learned about Ein Rafa’s approaches to city planning.

The “Good Water Neighbors” project is funded by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA).

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Green Economy Initiatives project holds several cross border tours for Tour Guides

The “Green Economy Initiatives” (GEI) project held a 3-day cross border tour this past month in the areas of the Mateh Yehuda Regional Council in Israel, and in West Bethlehem, Palestine, for 25 Israeli, Jordanian and f8Palestinian “Adventure” Tour Operators, ‘Regular’ Tour Operators and Tour Guides. The group spent three days together visiting sites and meeting additional vendors that support local “green economy initiatives” and ecotourism development. Highlights included hiking, biking, horse-back riding, eating a delicious dinner from local and f9organic farms, walking the terraced landscapes (in both Sataf and Battir) and being the first group to ever go rappelling in the West Bank, near the Mar Saba monastery! These tours aim to create new economic opportunities based on common interests, and to promote cross-border, green, tourism initiatives.  See more photos in this Facebook album, and this video on Maan News (in Arabic) that was aired on Palestinian TV.f10
An additional GEI one-day tour this month focused on exposing our 2 EcoParks in the area; one in Auja, Palestine,
and one in Ein Gedi, Israel for another group of 25 Tour Guides from Israel, Palestine and Jordan. Also included were 2 stops for “environmental enrichment” for the Tour Guides: a visit to the Kaser el Yehud Baptism Site to view the Lower Jordan River and to learn about the environmental challenges of the River, and another at the shores of the Dead Sea near Ein Gedi, to learn about the degradation of the Sea and solutions being put forth by the countries, as well as by EcoPeace.

The “Green Economy Initiatives” project is supported by USAID’s Conflict Management & Mitigation Program.

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Jordan River Rehabilitation effortsf12

EcoPeace continues to lead tours and expose a great number of people, young and old, from diverse constituencies, to learn about the environmental challenges of Lower Jordan River.  There is no better way to involve the public in rehabilitation efforts – that will ultimately pressure local decision makers into action – than showing them the issues first-hand and on-site.

EcoPeace’s Jordan River Rehabilitation Project is supported by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and the Osprey Foundation.

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Spearheading the Bakoura National Park Project in Jordan

EcoPeace, in collaboration with the Jordan Valley Authority (JVA), organized a visit with Israeli experts and f13consultants from the Israeli Lower Jordan River Drainage Authority to the area of the proposed Bakoura National Park in the Jordan Valley. The purpose of the visit was to discuss the ongoing and future sustainable development projects on the Jordanian side, in addition to advancing the implementation of National and Regional rehabilitation plans in the Valley.

A Jordanian Master Plan, coordinated between EcoPeace and the JVA, was presented, listing a set of national “interventions”, including the Bakoura National Park. The interventions, once implemented, are expected to promote economic development for the Valley and its people, as well as a River with sufficient environmental flows to sustain a healthy eco-system.  Read more in this blog.

EcoPeace’s Regional NGO Master Plan (SWIM-JR) Project is supported by the European Union’s Sustainable Water Integrated Management (SWIM) Programme.

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Jordanian Minister of Water and US Delegates visit the SHE Ecopark

Jordan has taken many measures to alleviate its water shortages recently, especially after the recent surge of refugees from Syria that has put a huge stress on the Kingdom’s already scarce water resources. USAID has helped with the construction of a new pipeline, a new pumping station, a new waste water treatment plant, with additional funds being allocated for water conservation, infrastructure renovations and more. f14

A U.S. delegation headed by the Ambassadress to Jordan, along with the Jordanian Minister of Water and Irrigation, and the Secretary General of the Jordan Valley Authority, visited the Jordan Valley to learn about its water resources, to find ways to channel funding, and to develop cooperation opportunities. The visitors also toured our Sharhabil Bin Hassneh EcoPark where they received extensive explanations about its facilities and its importance as an environmental education center, as well as about the general water situation in the Valley and the Regional NGO Master Plan. Read more in this blog.

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SHE Ecopark – Traithlon & Duathlon – March 28th!f15

Start exercising! Don’t miss our annual Triathlon and Duathlon, held for the 3rd year now at our Sharhabil Bin Hassneh EcoPark in Jordan, in partnership with Experience Jordan.

To appeal to both novice competitors and more experienced athletes, the event includes two distances for each race: a shorter Novice distance and a longer Sprint distance. Click here for full information about the race details, the route informationfees & registrationresults from the last 2 year’s events and photos from last year’s event.

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Israel Jordan Water Agreement

EcoPeace applauds the Jordanian and Israeli governments for signing on a very important water sharing agreement f16last week.  The idea of a water exchange – construction of a Jordanian desalination plant in Aqaba that will also sell 50 mcm of water to Israel’s dry southern area, and in exchange, Israel to sell roughly the same amount from the Sea of Galilee to Jordan’s water scarce North area – makes complete economic, ecological and political sense.

However, EcoPeace has reservations about including the Dead Sea in the scenario proposed. The brine from the desalination plant in Aqaba is now proposed to be piped 200 km. north and dumped into the Dead Sea.  Although this small amount of water, according to scientific research, will not cause any damage to the Dead Sea’s chemical composition, it will also not “Save the Dead Sea”, as the politicians are claiming; it will raise the level of the Sea by only a few centimeters, and will raise the cost of the project by an additional $400M, rendering it economically not feasible.  EcoPeace would also like to see the Northern exchange of water occur by utilizing the Lower Jordan River as the carrier, and not to build another pipe to Jordan, as is being proposed.

Stay tuned for more updates.  Read more in this Jerusalem Post article, and this Circle of Blue article…

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Sustainability as a Strategic Business Enabler – June 9-12, 2015. Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA

This program is designed for organizations that want to seize opportunities at the frontier of sustainability. Renowned Yale faculty—experts in environmental science and its business applications—will evaluate your organization’s sustainability plan on multiple criteria (or help you create one). In one-on-one review sessions, you will learn where your gaps and opportunities lie and what to do next. Using research-validated Yale frameworks, faculty will present business practices that avoid doing the right things wrong. This is the first program of its kind to bring together science, risk management, business strategy, innovation, and influence skills to help sustainability officers succeed as strategic partners in their organization. EcoPeace Middle East is delighted to be sharing its wealth of experience in this program.

For more information, please contact Molly Nagler, molly.nagler@yale.edu

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