I was reading an interesting article lately about a large amount of copper that has been discovered in the Wadi Araba region, specifically the Dana reserve, worth up to $1.5-2 billion. A plan is floating around which suggests fencing off one fifth the reserve to mine the copper which will generate about $35 million every year for 20 years. Opponents of such a plan, mainly environmentalists, argue mining will destroy Dana’s environment. They also suggest more investment in tourism would generate similar monetary results.
The question of environment versus economics is not always theoretical. You really have to look at the country. Jordan has very limited resources and when it discovers something of this nature the question of environment or other social costs are usually cast aside for a more ‘how soon can we start mining?’ policy.
I’m not much of an environmentalist but I appreciate a good tree. Maybe even a shrub. I say this because I have my lines to consider: if someone told me we could generate a certain amount of money by mining underneath Amman’s Roman theater or Petra, I would say no. But if it’s somewhere that I might personally consider as environmentally useless then I don’t see the harm. The problem is what I might consider to be “environmentally useless” might be home to some rare species of ants that needs to be protected.
Sometimes the pro-economists and pro-environmentalists take me to the far side of their argument I can’t comprehend. Is this vacant piece of desert land really all that valuable to the environment? Or, is it really vital to our economy that we put a cement factory in the middle of Fuheis where the townsfolk are prone to, you know, breathe?
And let’s be frank here, tourism is great but it’s a much more fluctuating industry in Jordan compared to the relative stability of money generated through mining resources. Emphasis on the word relative.
But since the environmentalists brought up tourism as a way to compensate here’s another story that came out yesterday:
There is a proposal for a 500 dunum tourism complex in Jerash. The problem being that a great deal of that land is a part of the Jerash forest. As professor Fares Khoury argues in the article, less than 1% of Jordan’s land is natural woodland. So why oh why would we destroy more trees to build of all things a tourism complex?
If they want to build 5 star hotels in Jerash, which strangely does not seem to have any, then can’t they be built a mile away from any sites they might destroy?
It’s not just the natural environment but also places like Amman. I understand the need to build a mall close to where people live in order to attract more customers, but really, does it have to be built smack down in the middle of a neighborhood? I honestly feel sorry for people who live around Mecca mall. How do they deal with the noise pollution or the exhaust pollution or people who park in front of their homes?
Yet still I see buildings going up in the oddest places.
Sure prime real estate in Amman is scarce, so why not build on the airport road? Let the people move in that direction out in to the desert. Everyone seems to have a car these days and more and more people are living out there anyway. Malls, embassies, ministries, factories; stop building these places in the middle of neighborhoods where a person has to wait 20 minutes for the traffic to clear in front of his house just to back the car out of the driveway.
Economics is great but sometimes it’s just not worth the damage it does to any type of environment. And the environment is great but sometimes it’s just not worth what income could be generated by using it for economic purposes.
Who gets to decide this is the more important question.