In what was formerly thought to be a three way cooperation between Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority, the Kingdom of Jordan has decided to unilaterally undertake the first stage of construction of a canal between the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea, and the Dead Sea, with which Jordan has the entire eastern boundary.
The plan to build an elaborate system of pumps, pipelines and actual canals, has been mentioned several times on Green Prophet, including an article last August which noted that an agreement had been made between representatives of the three governments to jointly undertake the construction of this project.
Now it appears, however, that Jordan, one of the driest countries in the world, according to an article published Tuesday, September 29, in Globes, The Kingdom simply can’t wait for Israel and the P.A. to dedicate monies and resources to begin the fist stage of the project. Those involved, including Israeli Vice Prime Minister and Minister for Regional Development Silvan Shalom, noted that the project will be coordinated with Israel, which plans to become involved at a later stage.
Although the project is designed to eventually produce at least an annual amount of 120 million cubic meters of fresh water, produce several thousand megawatts of electricity, and hopefully restore the levels of the Dead Sea, there are still a number of environmental fears surrounding the project and what will happen once the water from the less saline Red Sea begins flowing into the Dead Sea.
There is also concern over what will happen to the fragile plant and animal eco-system of the Arava Valley, through which the canal will be built.
But all these concerns, including those of environmentalists in Jordan itself, seem to be taking a back seat by Jordanian officials, who now have no choice but to undertake this project as a means of supplying drinking water to a country which is one of the 11 most arid countries in the world (92% of its land being desert) and with a population of 6 million that is growing at an annual rate of 3.5%.
For a country in such dire water straits, 120 million cubic meters of fresh water, of which the Kingdom will receive at least 40% (the rest to be divided up between Israel and the Palestinians) would be a god-send.
Even though Jordan only has a very small sea coast, 26 km as compared to Israel’s 233 km Mediterranean and Red Sea coastline, the Jordanians might still consider building at least one or two large desalination plants as an alternative.
Not that desalination plants are 100% eco-friendly: they’re definitely not, as noted in a previous Green Prophet article . A desalination plant adjacent to Aqaba might still be a better solution than dredging a 100 km long canal to the Dead Sea, with all its environmental concerns.