Despite tensions in the Middle East, Israel and Jordan published a joint multi-million euros tender to deliver a major water-sharing project, which is designed to help meet the water needs of both countries and replenish the shrinking Dead Sea, which they both border, and supply drinking water to Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians.
The project, the largest jointly developed since the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan was signed in 1994, was promoted by Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Silvan Shalom and Jordanian Water Minister Dr. Hazim El Naser .
Shalom travelled to Jordan on Monday to announce the $800 million tender which is seeking a company to construct the canal and operate it for 25 years.
Last February, an agreement between Israel and Jordan to undertake the project was agreed. A new canal will be constructed that will carry 100 million cubic meters of water each year from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth at some 427 meters below sea level, to replenish the lake, whose level has dipped precariously in recent decades (22 metres since 1970) and is predicted to dry up by 2050 without intervention.
About 80 million cubic meters of water will be desalinated in a plant to be built in the Jordanian Red Sea city of Aqaba. Water will be divided between Jordan and Israel, which will use it to supply the surrounding Arava region.
A 200km pipeline in Jordanian territory will deliver water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. The pipeline will take some four or five years to complete. It will be 180 kilometres long and will pass through Jordanian territory, carrying around 200 million cubic meters of seawater from the Red Sea — at the very southern tip of Israel — per annum.
A memorandum of understanding on the entire project was signed in December 2013 and made provision for the Palestinian Authority to purchase 20 million cubic metres of water from Israel. Meanwhile, Jordan will be able to purchase an additional 50 million cubic metres of water from Israel’s Sea of Galilee to help address its water shortage.
Minister Shalom, who served as Water Minister in the last government, commented, “Today we took an additional historic step to save the Dead Sea.” He added, “The joint international tender to be published Tuesday is proof of the cooperation between Israel and Jordan, and a response to those who cast doubt on whether the canal project would ever go ahead. This is an exceptional environmental and diplomatic achievement.”
“This significant huge project reflects the regional co-operation on critical water issues between Israel and the kingdom of Jordan which emphasize that water is means of co-operation rather than cause of conflicts”.
The project will be funded and supported by the World Bank, the US and several European countries.