"WATER MANAGEMENT, ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION AND ARCHAEOLOGY IN THE"
WATER MANAGEMENT, ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION AND ARCHAEOLOGY IN THE MIDDLE EAST Abdel Sami Abu Dayya, Archeologist at the Jordan Department of Antiquities, Amman, Jordan (email@example.com), Marcello Benedini, UNESCO Consultant, Rome, Italy (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Mosè Ricci, Professor at the University of Pescara, Italy, and UNESCO Consultant (email@example.com). ABSTRACT The Middle East has always plaid a fundamental role in human history and culture, and the maintenance of historic monuments is therefore a mankind’s obligation. Archaeology must comply with the peculiar water resources and environmental problems, in an area in which the scarcity of natural water is a limiting factor. That area is now undergoing a deep economical evolution, for which the use of the available water is essential, but with the risk of contamination due to an increasing discharge of pollutants. The protection of the Quseir Amra ensemble in the Jordan desert can be an example of the problems arising in those particular zones. A decision has been taken to build a wastewater treatment plant about 7 km northwest for about 20,000 inhabitants. The Jordan Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, fearing some negative impacts on the ensemble and, consequently, a backlash on tourism and all the local economy, has expressed its categorical disapproval and requested UNESCO to intervene with its mandatory competence. Besides the limits imposed by the natural scarcity and the requirements for the environmental protection, the necessity of emphasising the historical values increases the number of constraints on the rational water exploitation. KEYWORDS: archaeological conservation, water resources management, wastewater treatment. INTRODUCTION The Middle East is one of the few areas in the world in which the civilisation has left behind a long sequence of proofs of its evolution in the past millennia. Beside the remnants of the biblical period, which was exclusively tight to the area and has been the origin of a 1 worldwide revolution, the ruins of the Roman Empire underline centuries of very intensive life of advanced culture, scientific knowledge and efficient political and administrative structures. The Islamic period, which followed immediately, with its continuous innovations in the cultural and scientific concern, can be also recognised by the numerous ruins of religious, residential and military interest. After many centuries, these ruins stud the new urban agglomerations and the desert. It is therefore justified the interest for tourism, attracting visitors from all over the world. Tourism is expected to be soon one of the main activities in the area and the principal source of economical development. This peculiar aspect of archaeological concern is inserted in a particular environment, in which the scarcity of water resources is predominant. The area is in fact one of the driest corners of the world and the way the inhabitants have been able to harness the available water is another proof of their skill and aptitude. Moreover, the typical climatic pattern shows events of intense rainfall that seem to counterbalance the long-lasting drought. Sudden inundations are very often recorded, particularly in low elevation zones, with the risk of damage for the historical buildings. The modern age is now facing the area with its typical problems of water management and environmental protection, which in other parts of the world have been debated during many decades beside the technological development. The main problem of the area is therefore how to transfer the technological breakthrough envisaged in the industrialised countries and how to adapt it to the peculiar situation, harmonising the management of water resources with the environment protection and the integrity of the local heritage. In such a framework the problem of wastewater management is very crucial. The discharge from the urban agglomeration is relatively high and the typical environmental situation does not allow the usual procedures of the western world to be applied, because the absence of surface water bodies does not favour the dilution and the abatement of the pollutant discharged. 2 A TYPICAL CASE IN JORDAN Among the numerous cases of protecting the archaeological sites in the more general context of water management and environmental preservation, the Quseir Amra ensemble, in the Jordan desert, can be an example of the problems arising in many parts of the Middle East (Khouri, 1988). Fig. 1 – Location of the Quseir Amra Ensemble ( ● ) in the Azraq Desert of East Jordan. Included in the World Heritage List of UNESCO, Quseir Amra bears exceptional testimony of the Umayyad civilisation, which was imbued with a pre-Islamic secular culture whose austere religious environment only left behind insignificant traces in the visual arts. The Quseir Amra paintings constitute a unique achievement of that period. Moreover, recalling that the principal remnants of the period are only those visible in foreign museums, Quseir Amra is the best conserved and most complete architectural ensemble of all the Umayyad palaces and castles existing in the Middle East. The Ministry of Water and Irrigation of the Kingdom of Jordan has taken the decision to build a wastewater treatment plant about 7 km northwest of Quseir Amra. An advisory committee, consisting of members of many ministries and governmental institutions, has proposed this location after some in situ investigations and following 3 some general criteria in the framework of the national economical planning. The proposed location has been approved by the responsible authorities, but the Jordan Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, fearing some negative impacts of such a plant on Quseir Amra, has expressed its categorical disapproval. To support its position, the Ministry has requested UNESCO to express its professional opinion on this matter and contact the concerned institutions. The location of Quseir Amra is indicated in Fig. 1, while a general view of the monument is shown in Fig. 2. Fig. 2 – External view of the ensemble. QUSEIR AMRA AND WATER RESOURCES Quseir Amra is in the Azraq basin, one of the largest regions of the Kingdom of Jordan, the centre of which is Al Azraq city, located about 110 km east of Amman. The Azraq basin is situated in the middle of the Eastern Desert, in a strategic position at the cross point of the roads between Amman and Baghdad and between Damascus and Mecca. In this region and close to its borders are located the most important Umayyad desert castles in Jordan. The basin [Al-Zubi et al., 2002] is a closed catchment draining into a central depression surrounding a narrow mud flat core. Its total area is 4 of 12,710 km2, over 94 % of which belongs to Jordan, less than 5 % to Syria and 1 % to Saudi Arabia. The Azraq basin is one of the driest areas of the Kingdom, having an average annual rainfall of the order of 88 mm; the total annual precipitation is estimated 1,119 million m³, concentrated mostly in October, November and April, and characterised by irregular intensity and duration. The surface runoff is estimated at 27.85 million m³/year. Somewhat lower is the infiltration rate, which allows the local aquifers to be replenished. The rate of evapotranspiration is of the same order of the rainfall. Some flood events occur mostly in January and March, after which some quantity of water remains on the soil where its major part eventually evaporates. The most reliable resource is groundwater, which consists of two permeable aquifers at different depth, in coarse material, separated by an impervious layer. Groundwater is withdrawn in many parts of the basin causing worrisome depletion, particularly in the shallow aquifer. Basin’s population, estimated several thousands, is scattered in small villages and deals with agriculture and animal breeding. All the area is under particular attention of the Jordan Government and short and medium range economical development plans are now in progress. Tourism is the principal activity, expected to grow up in the next few years, as visitors from abroad will be attracted by the various monuments and historical remnants. Water planning in the basin is in line with the Government’s initiatives regarding the economical development of all the Jordan territory. The average water demand for the domestic use can be estimated around 100 l/percapita/day. At the present time such a demand is met almost exclusively by means of groundwater. The most important residential area is the city of Al Azraq, with a population of about 12,000, This agglomeration, with several villages scattered in the surroundings, is the main source of the polluted wastewater to be treated and disposed, for a total population of 20,000 inhabitants, estimated in the next future. 5 Agriculture is the main water consuming activity and relies particularly on groundwater, about 25 million m³ of which are currently abstracted for irrigation. At the present time large percentage of high quality water is consumed for low value crops. The soil is contaminated due to the combined effect of fertilisers, excessive irrigation and high evaporation. In the area are also located some industrial activities, among which mining and quarrying, impacting on water resources. OVERALL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE PROPOSED PLANT The plant’s location is some 30 km away from Al Azraq. In the residential area there are not collecting networks suitable to convey wastewater to a central receiving point. As usual in this kind of urban agglomeration, septic tank is the current practice of wastewater collection and disposal, separately for each household. This practice, expected to last also in the next future, will be maintained for the proposed scheme of wastewater reclamation (Fig. 3). Mobile tankers will periodically provide to empty the septic tanks and carry the wastewater to the plant, to achieve the final level of treatment. No risk is expected for the residential area, which will be concerned only with the correct running of septic tanks and the safe working condition of mobile tankers. After treatment, the reclaimed wastewater will be spread on the nearby ground for irrigation. Care will be taken in order to maintain the typical crops that are characteristic of that particular desert environment. 6 Fig. 3 – Scheme of wastewater reclamation with the proposed treatment plant. THE EXPECTED IMPACT OF THE TREATMENT PLANT The proposed wastewater treatment plant, and the irrigation area that will benefit from the reclaimed wastewater available, will be therefore in the vicinity of the Quseir Amra ensemble. In spite of an expected high level of technology that guarantees safe running with a limited impact, the risk of failures persists and justifies the objections motivated by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. According to a worldwide experience (E.P.A., 1980a, b), the main probabilities of failures of a wastewater treatment plant are related to: breakdown of pumps and other mechanical devices that mobilise water through the various steps of the process; alteration of the basic chemical and biological reactions of the process; occurrence of meteorological events that can change the composition of incoming raw water; discharge of the final effluent in wrong places and at wrong time; leakage of pipes, reactors and tanks; absence and malfunctioning of covers and protection barriers. These failures are tight to the capability of keeping the plant under effective control and can increase in the particular climatic conditions of the Azraq desert, very different from those characterising the situation in which the successful examples, described in the technical literature, have been conducted. 7 Besides the failures indicated above, the emission of odours, mostly relevant to high concentration of hydrogen sulphide, could become particularly determinant in increasing the hostility of the interested people. It has been proved that in the desert an unpleasant odour propagates very easily and intensively, and can be perceived after long distance from the source, in a measure deemed much higher than in a usual urban context. Moreover, the solution of conveying wastewater to the plant by means of mobile tankers cannot entirely guarantee the absence of casual spilling and odour emission along the road. The impact of the proposed treatment plant is therefore strictly dependent on the peculiarity of the site and can be expected to severely hit an environment that has been so far completely uncontaminated and appreciated for its genuine natural characteristics. Because the agricultural use is normally restricted to some months, according to the needs of the crops, while the wastewater is continuously available all over the year, suitable storage capacity should be opportune, in order to retain the unused water and make it available for the next demand period. Retaining in a surface reservoir, for a long while, wastewater only partially treated can be risky for the sanitary protection of the surrounding zones. Odour, insects and disease propagation are the principal reasons that discourage this kind of solution. The improved technology of treatment plants can help to overcome large score of such impacts. In any case a thorough and continuous monitoring of all the devisable works is necessary. Obviously, if overwhelming reasons will oblige to adopt the solution proposed by the Ministry of Water and Irrigation, the treatment plant shall be constructed and run under the most rigorous control, performing permanently all the measures able to guarantee its safest working conditions. 8 SOME ALTERNATIVE SOLUTIONS Following the objections raised by the Jordan Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, and supported by UNESCO, several Jordan Authorities and Institutions are concerned about the possibility of adopting other solutions for the treatment of Azraq wastewater. Besides the protection of the Quseir Amra ensemble, other aspects can be taken into consideration. The use of reclaimed wastewater is a promising solution, but is practically essential in a place having scarce natural resources, like the majority of countries of Middle East. Efforts should be done in order to conserve the greatest quantity of water discharged from the urban agglomeration. The agricultural use of this water should direct the responsible authority towards the identification of the best location of the treatment plants, in a position at the shortest distance both from the source and from the crops to be watered. The opportunity of conveying the reclaimed wastewater to an area in which the agricultural activities are more productive should be emphasised. In the case of Al Azraq, such an area, which is closer to the urban agglomeration, could bring a better economical return if properly harnessed with irrigation. A location of the treatment plant in the vicinity could be preferable and eventually more useful, in comparison with a plant that discharges in the middle of the desert. GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS AND CONCLUSION The construction of a wastewater treatment plant and its daily running cannot be severed from the more general aspects of water resources management in the area, taking into account the foreseeable water scarcity in the near future. The necessity to meet the demand of agriculture imposes an accurate evaluation of all the usable water, relying on the best available technology. It should be remembered that the Kingdom of Jordan is characterised by a very poor natural availability of water. Recent investigations (Al- Salihi and Himmo, 2003) have pointed out, for the present time, an estimate of 840 million m³/year, with the possibility of increasing up to 1,669 million m³/year in 2040, assuming a medium population growth. The increased availability is supposed the effect of several measures, including the best use of groundwater, the construction of 9 reservoirs and the use of “non conventional resources” such as treated wastewater and desalination. The major contribution is expected in the reclamation of urban and industrial wastewater, which should increase from the actual amount of 99 million m³/year to 523 million m³/year. All these figures are relevant, as an average, to the entire territory of Jordan, which is characterised by great variability from one site to the other, but, in particular, the Azraq desert, which has less favourable conditions, requires greater attention and more favourable intervention (Scott et al., 2003). All these considerations must be developed in the light of preserving the archaeological site, which is expected to increase its role of primary interest in the cultural and tourism future of Jordan and the neighbouring countries as well. At the same time, to avoid risks of cancelling or altering the significance of the landscape heritage that is present not only in the Quseir Amra site, the process of identification of landscape resources could be improved, using in a more appropriate way the historical- cultural profiles, beside the naturalistic and morphological aspects. This process is targeted on the reconstruction of a holistic image of the territory, which should consider the landscape as an element of heritage and identity, to be protected and planned with guided policies. It also attempts to re-establish in an integrated manner (and therefore through critical interpretation) the dynamic links between the various categories of resources that give form to the composite identity of a landscape. Particularly in the case of the Umayyad roots in the desert, the image of landscape allows to go beyond a sectorial or atomised conception of cultural heritage, extending the field of action from single objects to the complex drama of the relations which structure and give visible form to the territory. The rational use of water resources is to be inserted in such a context, as a challenge for a better life, today and in the next future. ACKNOWLEDGMENT The authors express their thanks to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre - Arab States Unit - and in particular Mr. Giovanni Boccardi, 10 Ms. Franca Miglioli and Ms. Mizuko Ugo -, for the chance and the responsibility of participating to such an interesting problem. Thanks also to the Jordan Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and all the other Jordan Authorities and Institutions that have provided useful information and guidelines. REFERENCES Al-Salihi, A. H. and Himmo, S. K. 2003. “Control Management Study of Jordan’s Water Resources”. 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