In 1978, Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature established Azraq WetlandsReserve to conserve the uniquely precious oasis located in the heart of Jordan’s eastern desert, between a limestone desert in the west and a basalt desert in the east. It is distinguished by lush marshland and natural springs forming sparkling pools, giving Azraq its name, which is the Arabic word for ‘blue’.
Citation: The Azraq Wetland Reserve web site. "In 1977, Azraq was declared a Ramsar Wetland of International Significance. Tragically, the wetland has suffered an environmental disaster because of overuse of water from the Azraq Basin aquifer. Due to excessive pumping of water from the oasis to large urban areas, particulalry Amman, and the illegal drilling of artesian wells for agricultural purposes, water levels have steadily dropped over the course of 50 years. These high levels of water extraction resulted in the extreme depletion of this natural oasis, drying up massive areas of invaluable wetland equaling over 25 km2. In 1992 the four springs which were feeding the wetland had dried out and the water table reached a depth of 12 meters below ground level. The water body that used to be a thriving ecological hotspot has dwindled alarmingly to cover 0.04 % of the area it used to cover in the past; the effects of which can be clearly seen in declining numbers of birds stopping over in Azraq wetland on their migratory route." In 1994, RSCN and international agencies managed to obtain enough water to restore depleted water levels by 10 percent. So far, this target has not been achieved due to continued water pumping, lack of manpower, and a lack of experience in wetland management. However, thanks to RSCN's efforts, many birds for which Azraq was once renowned for are coming back, and special boardwalks and bird hides have been constructed to enable visitors to observe and enjoy them.
We met Hazen y. Al-Hreisha, the Azrak Refuge Manager. He has been so kind, and is helping to organize our interviews and research. He helped us contact local people to interview about their community based conservation program, representing the local Chechen, Druze and Bedouin cultural groups in Azraq. I hope to determine how they relate to the wetland both from the time when the wetland was whole, to its current degraded condition.