Two recent reports by a coalition of Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian environmentalists paint a grim picture of the state of the River Jordan, and urge swift action.
“If immediate action is not taken the River Jordan will run dry by 2011,” Baha Afaneh, Jordanian coordinator for the Jordan River Project of Friends of the Earth Middle East (FOEME), said at a conference in Amman on 3-4 May.
According to a FOEME report, the once mighty river is now barely a trickle, fed by saline water and sewage from Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority (PA).
“Israel has diverted saline water from springs into the river. Today some 20,000 million cubic metres [of saline water] flow into the river annually,'' said Gideon Bromberg, the Israeli director of FOEME.
Some three million cubic metres of untreated sewage per year pours into the river from Beit Shea'an Municipality in Israel, despite the fact that Israel is considered a leading country in the region in terms of sewage treatment, Bromberg said.
According to FOEME, if 400 million cubic metres of fresh water (a third of the historic flow) is not allowed to flow into the river annually, its days are numbered.
Israel diverts the highest amount from the river, 46.47 percent, Syria draws 25.24 percent, Jordan 23.24 percent, and the PA only 5.05 percent. The report said the PA must receive its fair share.
Israel must allow fresh water into the river, while Jordan and the PA need to develop a master plan enabling the inhabitants of the Jordan valley to once again use the river for tourism and agriculture, the report said.
In the last 50 years, the River Jordan's annual flow has dropped from more than 1.3 billion cubic metres per year to less than 100 million. With Israel, Jordan and Syria each grabbing as much clean water as they can, it is ironically the sewage that is keeping the river alive today, according to FOEME.
The second report identifies over a billion cubic metres of water that could be saved if appropriate economies were introduced in Israel, Jordan and even the PA.
"In the middle of the desert we continue to flush our toilets with fresh water rather than using grey water or even better - waterless toilets; and we grow tropical fruit for export. We can do much better in reducing water loss and we need to treat and reuse all of the sewage water that we produce," Bromberg said in a statement.
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