By Hana Namrouqa

AMMAN – Experts and water officials will convene in the Kingdom in November to discuss the future of the Red Sea-Dead Sea Water Conveyance Study Programme (Red-Dead project), a government official said on Monday.

According to Jordan Valley Authority Secretary General Saad Abu Hamour, in the ninth meeting of the Red-Dead project, stakeholders will discuss the progress of five feasibility studies, the content of which will determine whether and how the project will proceed.

“During the meeting, the steering committee will discuss the progress of the feasibility study and environmental and social impact assessment,” Abu Hamour told The Jordan Times over the phone yesterday.

Stakeholders are also expected to discuss alternatives to the project, as well as the best available data reports for the Red Sea and the Dead Sea modelling studies, which were completed in July.

The project’s beneficiaries – Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and Israel – as well as representatives from the World Bank and companies carrying out the studies are scheduled to take part in the conference, Abu Hamour underlined.

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 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.

The feasibility study and the environmental and social impact assessments were launched in May 2008. Earlier this year, a study was launched to evaluate and compare strategic alternatives to preserve the shrinking Dead Sea and augment the water supply to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

The alternative scenarios include the rehabilitation of the lower part of the Jordan River and the transfer of water from the Mediterranean Sea or water sources in Turkey and Iraq to the Dead Sea. Other options include alternative desalination projects, improved management of the water sector in the three countries, and a hybrid of the aforementioned alternatives.
The Red Sea Modelling Study explores the impact of the Red-Dead project on the physical, chemical and biological make-up of the Red Sea, while the Dead Sea Modelling Study examines the impact of the scheme on the Dead Sea and water.