by Mohammad Ghazal

TOKYO – Several Japanese technology firms have expressed interest in assisting in the implementation of the Red-Dead canal project, according to a Japanese official.

Japanese water and energy firms would consider assisting the transfer of water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea should the project be deemed feasible, said Koichi Sato, deputy director of water industry and infrastructure systems promotion at the manufacturing industries bureau.

“Japanese companies are very keen to participate in the project and we have received several inquiries,” said Sato, whose bureau is affiliated with the Japanese ministry of economy, trade and industry.

Upon the conclusion of the feasibility studies for the project, which entails construction of a 200-kilometre canal from Aqaba on the Red Sea to the Dead Sea, Sato said the bureau will “promote the project among high-tech companies”.

He made the remarks in an interview with The Jordan Times following a session on “Japan’s Strategy for Promotion of the International Water Business” at the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in Tokyo.

The Red Sea-Dead Sea Water Conveyance Study Programme 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.

It is also projected to alleviate pressure on renewable and non-renewable water resources in the region by providing around 850 million cubic metres of potable water annually.

As part of the World Bank-supported study programme, final feasibility reports are due in May 2011, while the environmental and social impact assessments are expected to be completed by October 2011.

In the interview, which came as part of a JICA media tour for international journalists, Sato also highlighted Japan’s interest in supporting the Kingdom’s peaceful nuclear programme.

A consortium comprising Japanese Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and French firm AREVA have been shortlisted among three companies by the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission to build the Kingdom’s first nuclear reactor.

In September, Jordan signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with Japan on the peaceful use of nuclear energy, which paved the way for the sale of nuclear technology as well as expertise exchange.