Jordan/ 5.3 Sector specific legislation  

5.3.5 Architecture and spatial planning

The environment is controlled by the Ministry of Environment, which governs through by-laws for pollution in air, water (including aquatic life), nature (including biodiversity), and the earth. Additionally, there are by-laws for waste management, including the presence of dangerous and harmful substances. The Ministry is responsible for guidelines for maintaining the environment, and that includes issuing permits, carrying out research as well as emergency planning, and creating agreements internationally with similar organisations. The Ministry of Environment may secure additional funding locally and internationally. [1]

The most effective work in the field of environmental conservation and preservation in Jordan is most evident in the works of the NGO sector. Most evidently this is seen through the work of organisations such as The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, as well as The Jordan River Foundation, both of whom have developed sustainable environmental projects that include economically sustainable projects for both the protection of wildlife and biodiversity, as well as economic benefits for communities, in the framework of eco-tourism projects. Examples of such successful projects include The Dana Nature Reserve that has won several international awards, Wadi Finan, and the Bani Hamida handicraft projects. Never-the-less, the law under which not-for-profit companies could be registered to gain funds for the initiation and management of projects in this field, enabled many smaller organisations to work unmonitored, which coupled with corruption, led to the disadvantage or at least under development of this domain.

The protection of Architectural heritage falls under the management of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, which states that buildings constructed after 1750 AD are under the protection of the Ministry, as long as they coincide with the Law of Archaeology No. 12 of 1988 [2]. The law defines architectural heritage as any location, building, plaza, or elements that carry historical or cultural value, and cultural heritage is defined as any manmade or animal made imprint created within a 4,500-year range. These objects, buildings and locations are documented and protected by the Ministry.

The challenge facing the conservation of archaeology and architecture in Jordan is two-fold. On the one hand, Jordan has an archaeological history that dates back to the 11th millennium BC and includes sites of Bronze Age settlements [3] so many sites fall outside the timeframe protected by the Ministry. The lack of registration of many sites and archaeological artefacts throughout the country means that many of them, especially those in the cities, are lost in construction, or if discovered and recognised as valuable, are prone to theft. The law states that any artefacts found during construction must be declared to the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, but declaring artefacts to the authorities may result in stalling construction plans, therefore people quickly and quietly get rid of their findings in one way or another without declaring them to the Ministry. On the other hand, the Department of Tourism and Antiquities, which is responsible for their conservation, does not have enough resources to collect, document, protect or manage the vast historical heritage and archaeological sites.

It is also important to add education and culture into the equation. There is little interest, knowledge or education that raises awareness on the importance and relevance of ancient history. Another threat to architectural heritage is the rise in development and construction in cities in the last century. Many buildings are privately owned, and due to the increase in value of real estate and price speculation, many choose to destroy old buildings for investment opportunities; this is especially prevalent in major cities since the mid-1990s, and followed with another surge in 2004 (with the influx of Iraqi refugees). The laws are either not in place or not reinforced and in some instances, or not abided by due to corruption.

Chapter published: 04-05-2016