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March 2015

"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 Surbaher 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 serious 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 watershed, and also youth from North Shouneh and Irbid in Jordan - included fun ice breaking 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 Palestinian '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!

"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 with 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.

Another 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) and Yad Hanadiv.

“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 Palestinian "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 organic 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.

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.

Jordan River Rehabilitation efforts
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.

Spearheading the Bakoura National Park Project in Jordan
EcoPeace, in collaboration with the Jordan Valley Authority (JVA), organized a visit with Israeli experts and consultants 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.

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.

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.

SHE Ecopark - Traithlon & Duathlon – March 28th!
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 information, fees & registration, results from the last 2 year's events and photos from last year's event.

Israel Jordan Water Agreement 
EcoPeace applauds the Jordanian and Israeli governments for signing on a very important water sharing agreement last 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…(see larger map in Circle of Blue article)

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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