An ideal deal with Israel? Jordan is bringing its dead sea back to life!
Jordan announced its plan on Monday to start building a canal connecting the Red Sea to the Dead Sea that would both save the dead sea and satisfy the country’s thirst for water.
Prime Minister Abdullah Nsur said the $980-million project is designed to provide Jordan with 100 million cubic metres (3.5 billion cubic feet) of water a year.
"The government has approved the project after years of technical, political, economic and geological studies," Nsur told a news conference.
Under the plan, Jordan will draw water from the Gulf of Aqaba at the northern end of the Red Sea to the nearby Risheh Height, where a desalination plant is to be built to treat water.
"The desalinated water will go south to Aqaba, while salt water will be pumped to the Dead Sea," Nsur said.
The Dead Sea, the world's lowest and saltiest body of water, is expected to dry out by 2050. The detoriaration of of the Dead Sea’s water levels started in the 1960s when Israel, Jordan and Syria began to divert water from the Jordan River, the Dead Sea's main supplier.
The Deal with Israel
"We are thinking of selling desalinated water to Israel and buying water from Lake Tiberias (Sea of Galilee)," said Nsur.
The prime minister emphasized the pragmatism of the project since Jordan needs water to supply its northern regions, while Israel also needs water in the south. Much of this need is generated by the fact that the majority of refugees are living in the north, particularly the Zaatari camp, home to about 130,000 Syrians.
"A cubic meter of desalinated water would cost Israel one dinar ($1.4), while buying water from Tiberias will be cheaper for reasons related to transportation, costing us one-third of a dinar per cubic metre. It's a good deal," he added.
The Israel-Jordan peace treaty was signed by both parties in 1994.
However, environmentalists fear that an influx of seawater would compromise the Dead Sea's fragile ecosystem.
The water ministry says Jordan, where 92 percent of the land is desert, will need 1.6 billion cubic metres of water a year to meet its requirements by 2015, while the population of 6.8 million is growing by almost 3.5 percent a year.
"The high cost of that project prompted the government to come up with the ideas we announced today, which we call the 'first phase'," Water Minister Hazem Nasser told the news conference.
"We had no other option. We will revive the idea of saving the Dead Sea, while at the same time having drinking water. And we do not need to reach an agreement with Israel."
July saw the launch of a close to one-billion-dollar project to supply the capital with 100 million cubic metres of water from the 300,000-year-old Disi aquifer in the south to help address its chronic water problems.
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