by Hana Namrouqa | Nov 21, 2012

AMMAN — The Ministry of Water and Irrigation on Wednesday announced that its ambitious Jordan Red Sea Project (JRSP) will be scaled down due to feasibility-related and financial obstacles.

“We don’t have the capability to implement the JRSP under its estimated cost,” Ministry of Water and Irrigation Secretary General Basem Tulfah said.

The JD10 billion JRSP, which was announced in 2009, entailed a plan to extract 2,150 million cubic metres (mcm) of water from the Red Sea every year.

To be able to carry out the project and attract investors and financers, the ministry decided to divide the mega-venture into three phases, and scheduled work on the first phase to start this year and end in 2018.

“Even after dividing the project into phases, we found that the cost of the first phase will be above our estimates and the price of the generated cubic metre will not be affordable to Jordanians,” Tulfah told The Jordan Times in a phone interview.

Under the first phase of the JRSP, the ministry was planning to convey water from the Red Sea through pipelines to a desalination facility in Aqaba. Water generated from the plant was going to be distributed to the port city and surrounding development projects.

After completion of the three phases, the mega-venture aimed at desalinating 930mcm and channelling 1,220mcm into the shrinking Dead Sea. It also entailed generating 180-megawatt of electricity by projected hydropower stations.

In addition to providing the much-needed water, the JRSP featured an economic development programme, including the establishment of gated communities, resorts, industries and other projects, according to the ministry.

“Now, instead of desalinating 260mcm under the first phase, we plan to desalinate 70mcm per year to meet our water needs until the year 2025 or 2026,” Tulfah said.

The government official stressed that the JRSP “has not been cancelled” but scaled down.

“The project will be implemented according to the build, operate and transfer system,” Tulfah noted.

Meanwhile, Jordan Valley Authority Secretary General Saad Abu Hammour said on Wednesday that a specialised consultant company will be selected via “open competition” to prepare the project’s final studies and tender documents.

“The Treasury will not incur any costs in implementing this phase,” Abu Hammour said in a press statement e-mailed to The Jordan Times, underscoring that the decision to scale down the JRSP was taken after consulting with a team of experts.