• 26 APR 15
    • 0

    Mare Nostrum meeting in Aqaba brings Israeli and Jordanian NGOs together

    The Mare Nostrum Project held an important meeting in March 2015 in Aqaba, Jordan. The meeting brought together Israeli and Jordanian bodies working to improve and conserve the coastal and marine environment in the Gulf of Aqaba, which is shared by the two countries, in the vicinity of Aqaba and Eilat, Israel, at the northern tip of the Red Sea.

    “The meeting in Aqaba proved valuable as it was the first meeting to take place between Jordanians an Israelis living along the shores of the same Gulf,” said Mare Nostrum project initiator and coordinator Prof. Rachelle Alterman of the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. “Participants were excited and enthusiastic about the meeting and about the possibility to further meet in the future. In this respect Mare Nostrum achieved much more than expected.”

    This was the first meeting between Israeli and Jordanian NGOs in a decade, and fits into a wider goal of the Mare Nostrum project of promoting cross-border cooperation on issues of common concern. Mare Nostrum is leading similar efforts between Greek and Turkish environmentalists.

    Aqaba Coastal Development

    Eilat-Eilot region environmental department head Asaf Admon noted that Aqaba and Eilat share a common sea and common environment, and a common habitat for biodiversity affected by the same invasive species.

    “Environmental issues on one side of the border immediately affect the other,” he said, referring to the Evrona oil spill last December. He expressed hope that this meeting signals a renewal in joint work on issues of importance to those on both sides.

    Jordanian participants from the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA), Aqaba Development Corporation (ADC) and the Amman Center for Peace and Development discussed the city’s master plan’s environmental aspects. They also referred to monitoring programs, and challenges related to the coast and sea, particularly crucial since Aqaba is Jordan’s only port and only outlet to the sea.

    “Coastal activities are concentrated in a small area, which puts stress on corals, environment and biodiversity,” they noted. Various tourism, resort and residential projects are planned along the Aqaba coast, in a context of a limited coastline.

     The Jordanian participants highlighted land use conflicts and conflicts between private ownership and maintenance of beach areas, versus desires for wider and freer public access to the beach. ASEZA aims to open up more beaches for public use.

    Israeli representatives of the Eilat Bird Center and the Eilat region environmental monitoring program discussed potential for cross-border cooperation.

    Rina Kedem of the Arava & Dead Sea Science Center presented a community-level cooperation process, and discussed the Southern Israel-Jordan Environmental Forum’s mission to create a networking platform for cross-border environmental initiatives.

    Possible areas of cooperation discussed were: sharing information from the monitoring programs, beach cleanup, ornithology, environmental crisis contingency plans, and support for existing initiatives.

    Participants also suggested a joint meeting of organizations from Eilat and Aqaba with Turkish and Greek representatives to learn from similar efforts elsewhere.

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