July 21, 2010 – EcoPeace calls on regional authorities to halt baptism in the Lower Jordan River

EcoPeace Middle East  calls on regional authorities to halt baptism in the Lower Jordan River until water quality standards for tourism activities are met.

Tel Aviv/ Amman, July 21 2010

As reported by the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot, the Israeli Ministry of Health issued a decree to the Ministry of Tourism and the Nature and Parks Authority to ban baptism in the Lower Jordan River due to the serious health risks of human contact with the highly polluted water.

The Lower Jordan River is arguably the most famous river in the world, of international significance to more than half of humanity due to its rich natural and cultural heritage and its symbolic value and importance to the three monotheistic religions. For Christian pilgrims, one of the largest tourism sectors in both Israel and Jordan, the opportunity to be baptized in the Holy River is a lifelong highlight.

Sadly, the Lower Jordan River has long suffered from sever mismanagement with the diversion of 98% of its fresh water by Israel, Syria and Jordan and the discharge of untreated sewage, agricultural run-off, saline water and fish pond effluent in its place.

“Attempts of the Israeli Ministry of Tourism and Israeli Nature and Parks Authority to lower health standards in order to enable baptism in the Jordan are completely unacceptable. The issue is one of public health not to be compromised by short term economic interests” said Gidon Bromberg, EcoPeace’s Israeli Director.

The loss of tourism opportunities due to the degraded state of the Lower Jordan River can be estimated in the millions of dollars.

“The 300,000 residents of the Jordan Valley are losing livelihood opportunities due to the poor state of the River. The recent health warning is a strong call to action that our governments should work to rehabilitate the Lower Jordan River to enable residents and tourists alike to enjoy the River’s unique natural, cultural and religious sites” added Munqeth Mehyar, EcoPeace’s Jordanian Director.

For more information on the current state of the Lower Jordan River please see EcoPeace’s Environmental Flow Report issued in May 2010 (http://ecopeaceme.org/publications.php?ind=117) or call:

– Gidon Bromberg, Israeli Director of EcoPeace Middle East, T +972 52 4532597, [email protected] (spoken languages: English and Hebrew)

– Munqeth Mehyar, Chairman and Jordanian Director of EcoPeace Middle East, T+962 6 5866602, [email protected] (spoken languages: English and Arabic)