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The International Writers Magazine: Eco-City

Amman—A livable metropolis
Awni Kawar

Amman is our pride-of-place, it is a local city yet so cosmopolitan in character. We need to make it greener in the next decade to streamline it with the cities of the world which are increasingly becoming more environment-friendly.
Despite its urbanization and population growth that is set to increase to six million inhabitants by 2025, environmentalists, city officials, and representatives of the tourist industry should get together and hammer out a plan that would make Amman a vibrant metropolis.

We owe it to our inhabitants, daily commuters who come from all regions of the Kingdom, and international guests frequently visiting the capital to get to other tourist sites of which there are a great many in Jordan.

While the Greater Amman Municipality (GAM) is presently amidst plans to change the city through alternating the infrastructure of the downtown area, and making it more pleasing, livable and exiting to the eye, one should be aware the capital is developing far too quickly as a result of natural growth and economic development.

The city's ancient sites like the Roman Amphitheatre, Citadel, Jabal Luweibdeh, the old area of Jabal Amman and the different museums exuberating a rich culture, tradition and diversity, radiate a strong aura intermingled with, to use a trendy phrase, hip-hop development of high-towers, high rise office blocks and urban sprawls.

These are the costs of modernity, urban living and indeed urban architecture. In themselves, they produce the flash in our different neighbourhoods, but unfortunately they are accompanied by traffic congestion, pollution, smog and harmful emissions that would start effecting the environmental terrain if they are not controlled.

Admittedly GAM is trying to put the environmental breaks on by creating greener zones, and establishing public gardens and parks—there are 128 of these as of 2006 scattered over Amman—in many spatial areas, and in some cases over a number of hills, more ground work needs to be done to make the Jordanian metropolis green with a ''green economy'' to safeguard future generations and allow people circumvent the "green house" effect and the different gases that are slowly changing global weather systems.

While the Jordanian Ministry of Energy is to be congratulated for converting to unleaded petrol, away from harmful diesel which the government embarked on since 2006, the measure itself needs to be accompanied by other on-the-ground action.

These include instituting more effective green legislations and better green zoning with tougher penalties for breaking the law, becoming more transparent and guarding against wasta (favouritism) practices that may be used to build on lands and roads which are not allowed under normal circumstances.

Construction is going on at rapid rates in the light of the demographic changes in the region characterized by the movement of Iraqis into Jordan—up to 1 million unofficially, although government figures put the number at much less.
The construction may eat away pockets of green, if we don’t watch out, although the present skyscrapers is also the result of more international investments coming into Jordan which must be regarded good for the economy but nevertheless, better planning is required.

With all this going on we must be more aware of the need to do all we can to protect the environment through for instance banning the use of plastic bags, moving towards the recycling of rubbish and institution of wider re-cycling programs and consciously-adopting alternative sources of energy, like solar, and energy saving lights in our streets, offices, homes and public places.

All these help to create a better environment and safeguard our future. Quite frequently many of these measures are awareness-related and involve the public. Together with government action, it is up to the public, ordinary people like you and me, to adopt more environmentally-friendly life styles, change our habits and have a more positive approach to nature.

These can be as simple as turning the light off when one leaves the room, taking care not to over-hose our garden and car with unnecessary water, not throw litter in the streets except in allocated places, recycled bins and become more health-conscious in our eating habits by reverting to more organic products and home-grown produce from the garden.
These apply not just to Amman, which is seen as a very clean city, but all over the world, however, for the Jordanian capital, more green measures have to be adopted to be established as a green city in line with other international conurbations.

In 2007, the capital of Iceland ( Reykjavik), Portland ( Oregon, USA) Curitiba (Brazil), Malmo (Sweden) and Vancover(Canada), were chosen as the first five among what qualified as the 15 greenest cities in the world by a respected US eco-friendly Grist Magazine looking for measures taken by officials in these cities that contribute to saving the environment. Amman should be among them when the next vote take place.

As tour operators and those involved in the revamping of the tourist industry in Jordan, a move towards green would vastly increase the input of our sector some of whose hotels and restaurants are already adopting nature-friendly practices like towel recycling and the installation of energy-saving bulbs. But we can do much more, in fact switch to bio-diesel in the hotel kitchens and restaurants with other eco-friendly techniques.

It is essential to accomplish that as the tourist sector is already a rising star in Jordan, contributing over 13 percent of the kingdom's Gross Domestic Product in 2007 and set to grow further by the influx of international tourists forecasted for the kingdom in the coming years, especially from Europe and America, guests who are themselves green, environmentally-conscious and would much like to see a country like Jordan paying greater attention to nature protection.

The writer is the General Manager of the Petra Travel and Tourism Company, a local company in Amman that has been in the tourism business since 1965 and specializes in providing different packages to Jordan. He is the outgoing Chairman of the Jordan Inbound Tourism Association of tour operators that bring international tourists to the Kingdom. He frequently attends travel and tourism expos in the world and writes frequently on tourism and the environment and can be reached at email:

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