Israel, Jordan, Palestinian Authority joining forces against water scarsity

A project for a canal connecting the Red Sea to the Dead Sea is currently being studied by a joint Jordan, Israel and Palestinian Authority committee. Known as the Red Sea-Dead Sea Water Conveyance Study Program, the project aims at answering to the rising water crisis in the region by supplying much needed fresh water from desalination as well as replenish the rapidly diminishing Dead Sea water levels..

At a meeting last week, hosted by Jordan, headed by representatives of the World Bank, a Technical Steering Committee (TSC) has been formed to study the options for undertaking the construction project, which would be done in stages.

The  TSC will also evaluate the technical feasibility of mixing Red Sea and Dead Sea water, an issue some environmentalists fear will damage the sensitive regional environment.

Financing of such a project would be handled through the World Bank: all costs involved, and  the total commitment that everyone will have to undertake such a project, will depend on the outcome of these studies.

The project for a Red Sea-Dead Sea canal has been a long time standing one. Earlier this year Jordan said they’d go it alone; later Israel said the World Bank had given them clearance and didn’t mention the Jordan partner. A former announcement by Israeli Vice Premier Silvan Shalom, was denounced by both Jordan and the PA, saying that at that time, the World Bank had not yet an actual commitment to finance the project.

The new re-commitment by Israel, Jordan, and the PA, with the aid of the World Bank, may help give this project the right “push” it needs to get going – if that is the best solution for not only saving the Dead Sea, but result in fresh water from desalination and possibly electricity generated from the water pressure of the water coming from the Red Sea.

The project is not without a number of objecting parties, including environmental groups like Friends of the Earth Middle East, a regional environmental group which claims that the Red-Dead canal project is being planned primarily for financial reasons, with little regard for its affect on the environment; particularly that of the Arava desert region through which the water from the Red Sea will flow.

Although the Dead Sea is currently drying up at the alarming rate of 1 meter per year, due to the Jordan River (the salt lake’s primary water source) being reduced to little more than a trickle, environmentalists feel the mixing the water of the Red Sea with that of the Dead Sea will do more harm then good, and upset a fragile ecological balance that has been in existence there for thousands of years. For this reason alone, a thorough study needs to be conducted before the project is allowed to commence.


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