December 15, 2010 – Israeli Knesset Committee calls for the Jordan River’s Rehabilitation to be a project of national priority

Israeli Knesset Committee calls for the Jordan River’s Rehabilitation to be a project of national priority

Tel Aviv, December 15, 2010

For the first time ever the Israeli Parliament, through the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee held a session on the issue of the poor state of the Lower Jordan River.

EcoPeace Middle East, a regional organization that brings together Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian environmentalists called on the Knesset Committee to debate the issue and presented at today’s session its latest findings in regards to the River Jordan. EcoPeace research shows that only 2% is left of the River’s historic flow and that the demise has led to a 50% loss of biodiversity.

The Knesset Committee received details as to the tens of millions of shekels being invested by Israeli municipalities to complete sewage treatment facilities that should, by the end of next year, lead to no sewage being discharged into the river from the Israeli side. In addition, Israeli master plans for the development of the Israeli section of the valley are being initiated by the Israeli Ministry of Environment and financed by the Israeli Ministry of Regional Cooperation identifying land use and tourism potential of a rehabilitated river. During the Knesset debate, however, it became clear that the Israeli Water Authority was reluctant to commit to any release of fresh water to the river beyond replacement of sewage removed.

Gidon Bromberg, Israeli Director of EcoPeace, congratulated the committee for its decision to call for the rehabilitation of the lower Jordan River to be identified as a project of national priority. He stated, “the millions of shekels being invested in Israel need to be followed up with the release of quantities of fresh water that will enable the communities along the river’s path to truly benefit, including economically, from a healthy river.”  He added, “present levels of flow leave the river little more than a set of pools and puddles of water. The lack of willingness of the Israeli Water Authority to commit in writing that even present levels would remain was of additional concern,” Bromberg continued.

For the last two years EcoPeace has convened informal meetings of Jordanian, Palestinian and Israeli government officials to discuss the rehabilitation of the river with the Ministers of Environment and Regional Cooperation in Israel, Minister of Environment in Jordan, and Minister of Water of the Palestinian Authority, expressing their willingness to champion the issue.  Concretely, Jordan has moved forward in building a sewage treatment plant in the largest community in the northern Jordan Valley, and the Palestinian Water Authority is moving forward on plans for a sewage treatment plant in the largest Palestinian community in the Jordan Valley.

The committee’s decision translates as follows:

“The Jordan River is of utmost national importance: religiously, politically, historically, environmentally and from a touristic potential. The Lower Jordan has turned into a sewage canal, causing great harm to tourism, the environment, the economy and to the Dead Sea. The responsibility lies with both countries, Israel and Jordan, both of which block the water resources into the Lower Jordan and both dump sewage into it. Treatment of wastewater, as is being undertaken today in the Jordan Valley Regional Council, must be done also in the jurisdiction of the Civil Administration. At the same time, this issue must be a top priority for Israeli – Jordanian relations, and the Foreign Ministry must promote discussions with the Joint Water Committee [Israeli / Jordanian].  As for water, additional water needs to be allocated to the River, as the present amount is not sufficient to sustain it, and may cause irreparable damage to the River and its surroundings. The committee turns to the Prime Minister and to his Chief of Staff to place the issue of the Lower Jordan River on its agenda, in order to develop a comprehensive governmental action plan including allocation of resources for the improvement of the water quality in the Jordan.”

For more information:

Gidon Bromberg, EcoPeace Israeli Director, 052-4532597, [email protected]

Click here for our hebrew press release on the issue