Ammannet – Hanin Ramahi

Friends of the Earth Middle East called on the government and neighboring countries for the rehabilitation of the Jordan River, given its importance environmentally, religiously, and as a source of water.

The demand for rehabilitation came after a study prepared by the association that assessed the reality of environmental damage on the river. The results indicate that participation is needed by the countries that reside on the banks of the river (Syria, “Israel”, Palestine, Jordan) who need to aid in rehabilitation relative to how much they contributed damages.

The Vice President Abdul Rahman Sultan told AmmanNet that the cause of pollution in the river and damage to surrounding areas is a result of the transfer of large amounts (92%) of river flow water to the Israeli side. In addition, the dumping of wastewater from Israeli fish ponds and agriculture waste is harmful . The most recent damage increased by 52%.

It is calculated that the percentage of river pollution on the Jordanian side is 20%, Syria 24%, and Palestine 2-3%.

Sultan says the study indicates, “the loss of 50% of the biodiversity in the river, high levels of salinity in the groundwater surrounding the river, which the river used to desalinate, and lower amounts of water extracted from groundwater wells, which have deepened significantly.

Regarding the amount of water the river must have, Sultan said, “The study estimated there should be 460 million cubic meters of water, however the current amount of water is 60-70 million cubic meters and mostly contaminated.”

The association addressed the government, representatives of the Ministry of Water and Irrigation, Health and Environment, and civil society organizations to work on the rehabilitation of the river.

Sultan said that the responses of various authorities to the call made by the Assembly were critical of the slow pace of proceedings of the Ministry of Water, which was assisting in conducting studies on the analysis of the water and economic development.

The Director of the Northern Jordan Valley and the Central Ministry of Water and Irrigation, engineer Qais Awais told AmmanNet that the rehabilitation of the Jordan River demands cooperation both nationally and internationally, “We must address the river and its banks in terms of quantity and quality,” stressing the need for a regional presence of parties to participate and contributing to the low quality river flows.

Aweys continued to push the issue which is still under consideration but underway with international organizations around the world. The EU put forward a project to rehabilitate the river through the participation of the countries which have contributed to the damage.

Sultan said that the Assembly continued with third-party support and has been appealing to donors abroad who expressed willingness to assist in the rehabilitation of the river. The EU is fully prepared to give a grant and American laws have endorsed the idea of rehabilitation of the river, which is considered a world legacy.

Sultan addressed Israel’s offer to pump 20 million cubic meters of water into the river, saying that the offer was insufficient. The amount that must be pumped from the Israeli side, in order to meet requirements, ranges from 200 to 300 million cubic meters.

The committees of health and the environment, water, and agriculture discussed the rehabilitation of the River with Friends of the Middle East in early June and promised to put the topic at the special session and invite the concerned ministers of the Council to discuss the matter.

The estimated financial cost of the project is hundreds of millions, in several stages, for the construction and establishment of purification plants, sewage systems, and agricultural sector development in the Jordan Valley area.