This article was originally drafted by the Strategic Foresight Group for the newsletter “Middle East Monitor” as part of the Rockefeller Foundation’s Searchlight Process. For more Searchlight content on futurechallenges.org, please click here.
Chemical pollution from industries is a cause of grave concern in Jordan, particularly in central areas with heavy concentration of industrial activity. The pollution is affecting not only the environment but also human health and scarce resources such as land and water. Pollution caused by industries will continue to rise as industrialization in Jordan is the key to support a growing economy and population expansion. At present, there are 212 chemical industrial plants across the country, and most of them are located in central part of Jordan where a vast majority of population lives. According to the Ministry of Environment, the amount of hazardous waste generated by chemical industries is estimated to be 23,000-25,000 tons annually. Industrial pollution in Jordan results in bad water quality, toxic soil and aggravated health risks, all of which affect poor households disproportionately.
The growing concern about the potential effects of pollution on natural resources and human health pushed the government to intervene. The Ministry of Environment and the Royal Geographic Centre have created the country’s first digital eco-map to combat chemical pollution. In addition, the government has also created the Environment Protection Fund to raise investments in clean technology which will contribute to environment protection.
The digital eco-map documents all polluting industrial units and categorizes them in accordance with the level of risk they pose to the environment. In just one year 2010-11, the map has listed 212 industrial plants in the country and provided all relevant data on the plants including level of risk they pose to human health, soil, water among others.
The plan to create an innovative eco-map is a part of green economy initiative of the government and funded by USAID. The digital eco-map, a practical tool with visual representation, indicated that industries in the central region produce 68 percent of the total solid chemical waste in the country. According to the eco-map, there are a total of 188 chemical industrial units in central Jordan, 5of which pose high risk, 147 pose medium risk and the rest pose low risk to the environment. In the southern parts of the country, out of total 8 industries, 2 units pose high risk, while the rest pose medium risk. As documented by the eco-map, the southern areas are a home to only 8 units; but these produce around 31 percent of total chemical waste in the country. The results and trends emerging from the eco-map will aid in combating industrial pollution in the country.
The eco-map plays an important role in helping the inspection and enforcement directorate to monitor and penalize polluting industrial units. It also helps to spread awareness within the industrial sector to follow techniques of environment friendly process and chemical waste disposal system. In the long-term, this will aid in reducing pollution levels and mitigate the negative effects of pollution on health, soil and water. The eco-map is also coming in handy for authorities to implement the “polluters pay” principle. The offenders are being fined, which is channeled into the Environment Protection Fund. The Fund has already earned JD 2.5 million (USD 3.5 million) which will be invested in technology for environment protection.
The digital eco-map is an inexpensive technology that can be easily replicated and used in most developing countries where industrial pollution is a growing concern. Digital eco-map can be scaled-up to document pollution in vast areas, towns and regions; it can also be scaled-down to manage and tackle pollution in slum clusters or specific localities within a city.