A European Union Plan to Rehabilitate the Jordan River is expected to help agriculture and tourism flourish in the region
Two weeks ago, EcoPeace, “formerly known as” Friends of the Earth with branches in Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority held in the East of the Dead Sea a conference to present a masterplan for the rehabilitation of the Jordan River. The River has suffered for a longtime from neglect resulting in its dryness.
The Masterplan, funded by the European Union, was prepared by a Dutch engineering company DHV, one of its kind in the world and will have important implications for the kingdom of Jordan, for Israel and for the Palestinian Authority.
“When bitterness [and pollution] is finished, sweetness begins” A Chinese proverb
Approximately 600 thousand inhabitants reside in the Jordan Valley nowadays. The majority, 500 thousand, lives in the Eastern part of the valley in Jordan and the minority, approximately, 50 thousand Israeli and 56 thousand Palestinian live in the Western side in Israel and the West Bank.
In the past, about a billion and 300mcm used to flow in the river from the Kinneret and the valleys tributaries but in the recent years, the river turned into a canal of sewage that stench.
This fact presented an occasion to develop the environment and economy that was neglected in the past years. According to what appears from the conference, it represents an invitation and a possibility of political cooperation between the authorities in the region.
Rehabilitation of the River requires allowing water to flow from the Kinneret. After 50 years break, Israel allowed water to reflow in the River and since then approximately 9 mcm flowed into the River. Allowing water to flow in the river became possible because the authority in Israel reduced to considerable scale water pumping from the kinneret to the National Carrier. Nonetheless, this amount is relatively small compared to the days whereby approximately 650 mcm flowed from the Kinneret in addition to water from the tributaries spilling in the Jordan.
Allowing water to reflow needs also solutions to the severe contamination that worsen southward downstream the River.
According to the plan, there is a need to coordinate the treatment of the pollution sources, management of the water, development enterprises, and infrastructure building along the valley.
In the short term of 5 years, the Masterplan requires an investment of 495 million dollars funded by international bodies like the International Monetary Fund. 330 million dollars are allocated for Jordanian and Palestinian economic projects and inclusive of agricultural development, construction of greenhouses, irrigation system, and expanding the marketing of agricultural produce bought in Jordan and the West, in Israel and in the Gulf States.
Additional potential arises from tourist sites in ancient Jericho, the Baptism site of the land of the monasteries north of the Dead Sea, and east of Jordan.
The plan allocates 165 million dollars for Israel’s touristic projects and sports in the Jordan Valley and includes renovating the Ottoman buildings in the old city of Beit She’an.
Translated from “Calcalist” by Samar M. Salma Media & PR Officer
הכלכלה הפלסטינית: להציל את הירדן
Media Department/ Amman