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Israel, Jordan and PA to sign Red Sea–Dead Sea Canal agreement

MEMO | December 9, 2013

20131209_IsraelJodanPA-MapIsrael, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority (PA) are scheduled to sign an agreement on Monday to build a pipeline from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. The project will be launched during a ceremony at the headquarters of the World Bank in Washington DC.

A senior reporter for Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, Nahum Barnea, reported that: “according to the plan, also known as the Two Seas Canal agreement, nearly 100 million cubic metres of water will be transferred annually from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea, which will hopefully slow down the Dead Sea’s desiccation.”

Starting in the middle of last century, the Dead Sea began to rapidly shrink, falling roughly one cubic metre a year. Its surface area today is about 30 per cent smaller than it was only 20 years ago. Increasing demands for water, especially for agricultural production in Israel, have exacerbated the problem, in addition to the practice of building dykes that create evaporation ponds to exploit the mineral wealth of the Dead Sea.

According to the new agreement, a joint purification plant will be established and Israel, Jordan and the PA will all share the water.

Israel’s Minister for Regional Cooperation and Infrastructure, Silvan Shalom, will sign the agreement along with the Jordanian and Palestinian ministers of water. Shalom was quoted as saying that: “this is a historic agreement. It is a dream come true.”

According to the agreement, nearly 200 million cubic metres of water will be pumped annually from the Red Sea, with around 80 million cubic metres desalinated in a special distillation plant in Aqaba yet to be established. Israel will receive 30-50 million cubic metres of water for the Eilat area in southern Israel, while Jordan will receive 30 million cubic metres of water for its southern population as well as 50 million cubic metres of grey-water from Lake Tiberias for the north.

According to Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, the PA had requested a foothold in the northern part of the Dead Sea near Ain Fashukha, but Israel refused. Instead, the PA will receive nearly 30 million cubic metres of water from Lake Tiberias, either desalinated water or grey-water, at production cost.

The entirety of the pipeline will be laid in the Jordanian territories to avoid any disputes with environmental organisations in Israel. The pipeline and the purification facilities are expected to be completed within four to five years.

~

Background:

Palestinian NGO statement on the World Bank-sponsored Red-Dead Sea Canal

Palestine Center for Human Rights | November 1, 2013

The undersigned Palestinian NGOs call on the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) to halt all forms of cooperation with the World Bank-sponsored Red Sea – Dead Sea Conveyance Project (RSDSCP) and to take an unequivocal public stance of rejection to the project.

It has become clear beyond doubt that the project is an unacceptable attempt to force the Palestinian population to consent to their own dispossession and to compromise on their own rights.

Any lack of a clear position by the Palestinian leadership on this outrageous project, any stand of ambiguity or positive criticism towards it, contributes to the impunity that for far too long has allowed Israel to appropriate Palestinian water and deny Palestinians their rights.

Five reasons why the RSDSCP must be rejected:

1. The project undermines Palestinian water rights and legitimizes Palestinian dispossession from the Jordan River. Israel unilaterally controls the flow from the upper Jordan River and prevents Palestinians from making use of their rightful share of the lower river’s water. This is the sole cause for the gradual disappearance of the Dead Sea. Instead of addressing Israel’s water theft, the project aims to maintain the unjust status-quo of the river and allegedly “save” the Dead Sea through large scale Red Sea water transfer.

2. The project attempts to replace the river’s natural fresh water appropriated by Israel from the upper Jordan River with desalinated Red Sea water sold at high costs to severely water-dispossessed Palestinians and at pitiful quantities. Even these sales remain merely an “option” and the World Bank studies plan to ‘supply’ only Jericho, which is currently the only water-rich place in the occupied West Bank. With every drop of water that Palestinians purchase, they capitulate to their own deprivation.

3. Neither the World Bank’s Feasibility Study (FS) nor its Environmental & Social Assessment study (ESA) address the grave damage to the West Bank Eastern Aquifer, currently the only source Palestinians have for water supply and development. The Eastern aquifer is rapidly depleting, and its water table is dropping at an alarming rate – both as a direct result of the shrinking Dead Sea. Consenting to the project entails closing an eye to the rapid destruction of the only other water resource in the Eastern West Bank. Instead, Israel should be held accountable for the damage it caused to this vital resource on which over 1 million Palestinians currently depend.

4. Far from “saving the Dead Sea”, the RSDSCP will actually destroy the unique features of the Dead Sea and its ecosystem. Under the project, the Dead Sea is slated to turn into a dead, engineered pool of Red Sea water and desal brines, destroying this Palestinian and world heritage site.

5. Both Red-Dead studies (FS & ESA) and the entire conduct of the World Bank lack credibility and transparency, and make a mockery of the alleged consultation and participation process. Throughout the process, the Bank has systematically turned a blind eye to Israeli violations of Palestinian water rights.

The Bank repeatedly and deliberately ignored key concerns expressed by Palestinians since the project’s inception and during the “consultation” meetings in severe breach of its very own Code of Conduct, as well as the project’s Terms of Reference.

In addition, the Bank management has so far refused to make public the results of the Feasibility and ESA studies. The World Bank’s actions are tantamount to a cover-up.

Palestinian civil society organizations reiterate their rejection of the Red Sea – Dead Sea Conveyance Project and invite Palestinians of all walks to demand that the PLO and the PNA honor their aspirations for self-determination and justice by voicing a clear, loud and unequivocal “No!” to the Red-Dead Sea scam.

This project can only result in further damaging and undermining Palestinian water rights and all cooperation with it should cease immediately. Reparation and compensation for past damages and respect for Palestinian water rights are long overdue and the only way forward.

Endorsing organizations and individuals:

1. Palestinian Environment NGO Network (PENGON)
2. MAAN Development Center
3. Palestinian Wastewater Engineers Group (PalWEG)
4. Stop the Wall
5. Palestinian Farmers Union
6. Applied Research Institute Jerusalem (ARIJ)
7. Land Research Center
8. Media Environmental Center
9. Palestine Hydrology Group (PHG)
10. Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC)
11. Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UWAC)
12. Environmental Education Center (EEC)
13. Institute of Environmental and Water Studies – Birziet University
14. Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR)
15. Palestinian Environment Friends (PEF)
16. Arab Center for Agricultural Development (ACAD)
17. Earth and Human Center for Research and Studies (EHCRS)
18. Palestinian Farmers Association
19. The Arab Agronomists Association (AAA)
20. Prof. Dr. Hilmi S. Salem, Palestine Technical University – Kadoorie (PTUK)
21. Clemens Messerschmid, Hydrologist
22. Prof. Dr. Samir Afifi, Environmental & Earth Sciences Department, Islamic University of Gaza

December 9, 2013 - Posted by | Economics, Environmentalism | , , ,

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