Special to Arab News
Japan has been praised for its vital help in relieving a desperate water-poverty crisis in Jordan.
Jordanian communities struggling for years with old and polluted water infrastructures have been getting major system upgrades thanks to Japanese aid agency support.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has been pumping huge resources into improving water supplies and sewerage facilities in the Middle Eastern country.
Life for Montaser Sqour and his family has been made significantly easier due to new water management systems introduced with Japanese help.
Their town of Sarih, near to the northern Jordanian city of Irbid, had long suffered from poor water supplies and no reliable sewage waste solutions. But many of the problems were solved in 2018 when the JICA invested in a major upgrade to pipework.
“The resulting increase in water supply meant that we were able to fill our four-meter water containers in half the time it had previously taken,” Sqour told Arab News. “Instead of waiting four hours to fill our containers we are now able to do so in two hours.”
Salem Bash Aisha, of Ramtha in the far northwest of Jordan, said residents there were very grateful for Japan’s assistance with the city’s wastewater problems.
“What JICA was able to give us was a wastewater system in the south and west of the city, allowing us to discard the wastewater absorption pits that were a major source of health pollution.”
In 2014, Jordan was ranked as the world’s second water-poorest country, where water per capita was 88 percent below the international water poverty line of 1,000 cubic meters annually, according to government officials.
While Jordan has always had water supply problems, these escalated as a result of the Syrian crisis and the large influx of refugees from its war-torn neighboring state.
Jordanian census results showed that the country’s 10 million population in 2019 consisted of 1.4 million Syrian refugees whose presence has put tremendous pressure on its infrastructure, especially water supplies.
Hazem El-Nasser, Jordan’s water minister between 2010 and 2018, told Arab News that Japan was one of three countries that had stepped in to help. “Japan has been a consistent supporter of Jordan for decades and their financial support has markedly increased whenever we were going through a crisis.”
Japanese Ambassador to Jordan Hidenao Yanagi told Arab News that Japan had supported the improvement of the water sector in Jordan with special emphasis on the country’s northern governorate.
The envoy pointed out that in 2017 Japan contributed 2.4 billion yen (SR84.2 million) toward improvements in the water sector for the northern governorate, implemented by the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS).
While this was mostly to provide for Syrian refugees, at the same time a further 1.39 billion yen was allocated to support the expansion of water networks in the Balqa governorate.
El-Nasser praised Japan for its important help not just for refugees but Jordanians too.
“Whenever Jordanians see Syrians being served while they are languishing, they feel envy.
That is why Japan needed to have a parallel strategy not only supporting water networks providing for Syrian refugees but also for the local Jordanians in the nearby areas,” added El-Nasser.