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Mar 04 2013

Jordan's average ecological footprint per capita 'too small'

By Hana Namrouqa

AMMAN -- Jordan's average ecological footprint per capita is below the global average, and "too small" to meet some Jordanians' basic needs, according to a report released on Sunday.

The 2012 report of the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) titled, "Survival Options: Ecological Footprint of Arab Countries" said that in order to make vital quality of life improvements, large segments of the Kingdom's population must have greater access to natural resources.

"Jordan's average ecological footprint per person is 2.1gha [global hectares], while the global average footprint is 2.7gha. Compared to the rest of the world, the average footprint of an inhabitant in Jordan is small, and for many, it is too small to meet basic food, shelter, health and sanitation needs," the report indicated.

"Meeting this need will involve multiple strategies; significant improvement in resource efficiency and expansion of biocapacity without resource intensive production."

Noting that Jordan occupies 1.3 million hectares of productive land and water, the report said 97,000 of these are forestland, 230,000 hectares are cropland, 743,000 hectares are grazing land and 211,000 hectares support the country's built infrastructure.

The Kingdom also has 62,000 hectares of continental shelf and inland water to support fisheries.

In the Arab region, the ecological footprint per capita has increased by 78 per cent, while bio-capacity per capita decreased by 60 per cent over the past five decades.

Demand for nature products and services in the Arab world reached double the amount of what ecosystems can supply, the report said.

An ecological footprint is "the impact of a person or community on the environment, expressed as the amount of land required to sustain their use of natural resources", according to web sources.

It represents the amount of biologically productive land and sea area necessary to supply the resources a human population consumes, and to assimilate associated waste. Using this assessment, it is possible to estimate how much of the earth would take to support humanity if everybody followed a given lifestyle.

"Today, most Arab countries suffer an ecological debt. Compared to 1961, the average ecological footprint of the region has increased from 1.2 to 2.1 [gha] per capita," AFED Secretary General, Najib Saab, said on Sunday, as he summarised findings of the report.

The report indicated that there are two main drivers which have led to this sharp jump, including population growth, which led to higher overall consumption, and a sharp rise in the amount of resources and services consumed per person, as a result of higher incomes and changing lifestyle patterns.

"On the other hand, the average bio-capacity per capita in Arab countries decreased by 60 per cent within the past 50 years, dropping from 2.2gha to 0.9gha," Saab noted.

The report attributed the sharp decline to the vast increase in population and the decline in the productive capacity of the region's ecological systems due to pollution, habitat destruction and overall inadequate resource management.

According to data in the Footprint Atlas, part of the Survival Options report, Arab countries' individual ecological footprints exhibit vast variations.

"The average resident of Qatar has the highest ecological footprint in the world of 11.7gha per capita, exceeding by nine times the ecological footprint of the average Moroccan. Kuwait and the UAE have the second and third highest footprint per capita in the world, respectively," the report indicated.

The report said that if all humans lived like the average Arab resident, 1.2 planets would be required. If they lived like an average resident of Qatar, 6.6 planets would be required to satisfy their level of consumption and emissions of carbon dioxide.

Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature Chairman Khaled Irani underscored the importance of the AFED report, urging the Arab League to benefit from its figures, analyses and recommendations.

"There are scores of global reports about environment and sustainability, but none of them focused on the Arab world. The report gives lawmakers accurate figures to which they can refer to encourage green economy in the Arab region," said Irani, who is also a member of AFED's board of trustees.

Factbox

• Jordan's average ecological footprint per person is 2.1 global hectares (gha), while the global average footprint is 2.7gha

• Compared to 1961, the average ecological footprint of the region has increased from 1.2 to 2.1gha per capita

• The average bio-capacity per capita in Arab countries decreased by 60% within the past 50 years, dropping from 2.2gha to 0.9gha

• The average Qatar resident has the highest ecological footprint in the world of 11.7gha per capita

• If all humans lived like the average Arab resident, 1.2 planets would be required to meet their needs

If all humans lived like an average resident of Qatar, 6.6 planets would be required to satisfy their level of consumption

Source: 'Survival Options: Ecological Footprint of Arab Countries'

© Jordan Times 2013


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