editorial on the FoEME report on the Jordan River


It does not come as a surprise to hear that the Jordan River is destined to run dry by next year due to overexploitation and pollution. What is surprising is the fact that environmentalists waited for so long to reach this conclusion.

A report of the Friends of the Earth Middle East recently stated that until the 1930s, the river used to carry about 1.3 billion cubic metres of freshwater from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea, but has since lost about 98 per cent of this water, leaving, in the process, a highly degraded ecosystem as well.

Israel, according to the report, diverts about 46 per cent of the Jordan River waters for its use; Syria uses up to 25 per cent, Jordan about 23 per cent and the Palestinian Authority about 5 per cent of the river water. This diversion, says the report, has turned the river into a trickle and will eventually turn the Dead Sea into a pond.

Not that Jordan did not know or warned against this worrisome development.

The water now is either full of sewage discharge, fish farm water or saline water left from agricultural farms, presenting a grim, alarming picture of an illustrious body of water.

Besides its vital role to the life of the riparian countries, the river also has religious significance to the three monotheistic religions. As such, one would think that no effort would be spared to revitalise the river and preserve it for future generations.

If the prevailing conditions continue, it is predicted that the Dead Sea will continue to shrink by about one metre every year, which means that something urgent needs to be done to breathe new life into the River Jordan, which feeds it.

One solution could be pumping, as projected, 400mcm of freshwater into the river. But irrespective of the solution, one thing is clear: all the countries on the river banks have to stop overusing its water, stop polluting it and assist in restoring its traditional sources of freshwater.

There is little time, so the time for procrastination should be over. If inaction continues, the riparian countries will face the condemnation of the international community.