By Hana Namrouqa

AMMAN – Minister of Water and Irrigation Mohammad Najjar on Wednesday said the location for pumping water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea under the Red-Dead Water Conveyance Project has not been selected yet.

Concerned parties are still in the phase of studying the project’s economic feasibility and environmental impact assessment, and such a decision cannot be taken unless the studies are completed, he told reporters yesterday, responding to a question on whether a pumping site had been selected.

Led by the World Bank, the French company Coyne et Bellier and the British firm Environmental Resources Management are conducting the two $15 million studies, which were launched in May 2008.

“The World Bank’s studies end in March next year, but we will receive their initial results this November,” Najjar said at a joint press conference with Minister of State for Media Affairs and Communications and Government Spokesperson Nabil Sharif.

The Red-Dead project is part of international efforts to save the Dead Sea, which has been shrinking at the rate of one metre per year, largely due to the diversion of water from the Jordan River for agricultural and industrial use.

Over the past two decades alone, it has plunged more than 30 metres, with experts warning that it could dry up within the next 50 years.

The project, which will alleviate pressure on renewable and non-renewable water resources in the region by providing about 850 million cubic metres of potable water annually, entails the construction of a 200-kilometre canal from Aqaba on the Red Sea to the Dead Sea.

The project seeks to pump one billion cubic metres of water annually, with the aim of raising water levels in the shrinking lake from 408 metres to 315 metres below sea level.

Disi delay

Also yesterday, Najjar acknowledged there is a delay in the implementation of the multimillion dollar Disi Water Conveyance Project, noting that GAMA, the company carrying out the venture is currently in the “learning curve”.

“There is a delay in the implementation of the Disi project and I don’t deny that, because there are always difficulties at the start of any project,” the minister said, noting that weekly and monthly meetings are held with the company’s directors and senior executives to ensure progress on the project.

“We are committed to achieving progress of 15 per cent by the end of this year based on a plan presented by the company and this is the company’s responsibility,” Najjar said.

The project, which is being carried out on a build-operate-transfer basis, entails constructing a 325-kilometre pipeline that will convey water from the ancient Disi aquifer in the south of Jordan to Amman.

The Disi project is expected to supply the capital with 100 million cubic metres of water annually by the end of 2012.

The water will be transferred to Amman via a pipeline, which will pass through several water stations in Maan, Tafileh, Karak and Madaba.