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UNRWA’s renewable energy project draws flak

UNRWA says it is committed to environmental protection

By Maria Weldali - Sep 15,2021 - Last updated at Sep 15,2021

AMMAN — An UNRWA-executed three-megawatt Solar Photo Voltaic project in Al Muqabalain district, which has led to cutting down 172 trees in the area, has faced criticism from Dibeen for Environmental Development, a youth association for sustainable environmental development.

Despite criticism, UNRWA, in a statement, said that the agency “strongly believes that the benefits of this project outweigh any negative impacts”.

During an interview with The Jordan Times on Wednesday, the director of Dibeen for Environmental Development, Hala Murad, said that “deciding to start a sustainable project should not compromise the endless comings and goings of nature”. She added that this project will also affect all aspects of the residents’ lives in the district.

Decreasing UNRWA’s energy bill for 25 years will deprive the district’s residents of a neighbourhood green space, according to a Dibeen Association statement sent to The Jordan Times on Wednesday. 

“Chopping down trees to start a solar energy project is unacceptable,” said Murad, pointing out that, “Amman in particular cannot afford any further logging operations”.

Meanwhile, an UNRWA statement sent to The Jordan Times said that “a biodiversity survey was undertaken at the project site, which shows that the site is not located within or near areas of critical environmental concern and that no material damage is expected”.

In cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture, UNRWA is to plant 500 trees on and around the premises of the project, according to the statement.

UNRWA describes the project as “committed to sustainable development and in line with Jordan’s 2025 National Vision and National Green Growth”. 

The location was chosen based on its proximity to the existing Jordan Electric Power Company (JEPCO) grid and its suitability in meeting technical criteria, after having secured all necessary approvals, the statement said.

On the other hand, Dibeen for Environmental Development said: “The environmental impact assessment study relied on studies for previous projects, with different components and variables, which is not sufficient to ensure that no negative effects will occur.”

Questioning the project’s aims, Murad said that the aim of implementing a solar energy project is to have an environmentally friendly facility. This cannot be achieved in this case, given that “the cornerstone of the project is simply a massacre of perennial forest trees”, she said.

She added that the opinions and fears of the district’s residents need to be included in the environmental and social impact assessment study. Al Muqabalain district is a crowded area and cutting down large old trees would increase urban temperatures, which are already high and have negative effects on ecosystems, Murad noted.

“Green spaces are shrinking at a rapid pace in Amman and that is a major problem that needs to be addressed immediately,” Murad said. 

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