Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, on Monday afternoon, December 9 in Washington DC, at the headquarters of the World Bank, signed an agreement on laying a water pipeline to link the Red Sea with the Dead Sea. The pipeline, which will take three years to complete, will help slow the drying up of the Dead Sea with the inflow of water from the Red Sea. It will also provide the region with millions of cubic meters of drinking water.
Regional Cooperation, and National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom signed for Israel. Water and Irrigation Minister Hazem Al Nasser signed for Jordan. Water Authority Minister Dr. Shaddad Attili signed for the Palestinian Authority.
The pipeline will be 180 kilometers long and will pass through Jordanian territory, channeling 100 million cubic meters of water per annum northward from the Red Sea. The estimated cost for the project is approximately $300-400 million, as communicated by the Israel Ministry of Regional Cooperation. While the World Bank will support the project with a cash injection, millions of dollars will be raised from donor countries and philanthropic sources.
Approximately, 80 million cubic meters will be desalinated at a facility to be built in Aqaba, Jordan on the Red Sea which will produce about 100 million cubic meters of drinking water. The Arava region and Eilat will receive 30-50 million cubic meters of water, while Jordan will receive 30 million cubic meters of water for use in its southern regions. In addition, Israel will sell Jordan another 50 million cubic meters of water from the Kinneret for use in the north. The project will cover Jordan’s need for drinking water for about a decade. About 30 million cubic meters of water from the Kinneret will be pumped for the Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria.
“This is a historic agreement that realizes a dream of many years and the dream of Herzl. The agreement is of the highest diplomatic, economic, environmental and strategic importance,” said the Minister of Regional Cooperation and Infrastructure, Silvan Shalom. “I am pleased that an investment of years has reached its hoped-for conclusion and will benefit Israel and the residents of the region as a whole,” he added.
Jordanian Water Minister Hazem Nasser spoke about the humanitarian aspects of the project: “This is an agreement with a humanitarian aspect, designed to aid those who need water. There is an ecological aspect as well since we are trying to save the Dead Sea.”
The head of the Palestinian Water Authority, Shaddad Attili stressed that in spite of the conflict, “the agreement is unrelated to the Oslo Accords. The beauty is that this is a regional deal and it is important to everyone to save the Dead Sea. Despite political issues and the conflict, we proved that we can all work together.”
Environmentalists are not happy with the decision, with many highly concerned about the environmental consequences. Some are warning that mixing Red Sea and Dead Sea waters could upset the unique chemistry of the Dead Sea and the ecosystem, while discoloring the Dead Sea’s famous blue waters. Other concerns highlight damage to coral reefs in the Red Sea as well as contamination to the underground water of Israel’s Arava desert.
Anav Silverman writes for Tazpit News Agency.