While we don’t celebrate the energy crisis and financial woes in Jordan, it is poor finances that’s reportedly putting the highly controversial Red-Dead Canal on hold, Israel’s Maariv newspaper reported on Wednesday. The original plan which called for a canal between the Red Sea in the south up to the Dead Sea in the North to “save” the shrinking Dead Sea, has had environmentalists up in arms. The benefits of the canal, proponents say would be a new water source to the shrinking Dead Sea, while the altitude differential getting the water to the Dead Sea will create energy which could fuel a desalination plant to the very thirsty Hashemite Kingdom, Jordan.
The same proponents envisioned a pastoral Venice-like canal separating Israel and Jordan, and saw the canal as a venue for peace, despite overlooking consequences such as increased terror activities or the underlying earthquake fault zones that could rupture the canal destroying the hydrological profile of the desert that lies between these two bodies of water.
The canal project would create two billion cubic meters of drinking water for the regional partners, which included the Palestinian Authority, and the highly saline by-product from the desalination process would be channeled to the Dead Sea. Scientists I’ve spoken with says that the mixture of such saline water with a different salt content in the Dead Sea could create a blanket of bacteria, changing the face and beauty of the Dead Sea forever – so I am happy that the plan still seems to be on the backburner.
For science geeks, here’s more details on the Red Dead Canal concept, developed by the United Nations University.
For now the plan is on hold despite a back and forth, on-again, off-again relationship Israel has had with its proposed partner, Jordan who three years ago said it planned to go it alone, and create the Red Dead Canal without Israel.
Estimated to cost anywhere from $5 to $10 billion dollars, an energy-strapped Jordan says it cannot foot the bill and if it were to go ahead the Red Dead Canal would need to be scaled back. The Maariv cited the Jordan Times. Meanwhile the Israeli developers said they hadn’t heard the news from Jordan. All along I had assumed that Jordan would be getting international financing and donations for the project, but perhaps not now.
“The purpose of the project is to advance regional peace through a desire to save the Dead Sea,” the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and the Galilee in Israel said recently. The ministry added that the benefits from tourism and cooperation will easily compensate for the initial cost of the project.
To date the World Bank has spent a reported $16 million USD investigating the feasibility of a Red Dead Canal, and their decision-making report was to be released in 2010. So far there’s been no report, and prospects for peace in the region since the Arab Spring do not look better than they did ten years ago.
Illustrations for the canal developed for Jordan by Tera Form architects.