Friday, November 28, 2008

Jordan grapples with water crisis

Agence France-Presse: Gasping for water and fearful that climate change will amplify its problems, Jordan is pinning its hopes for liquid salvation on a scheme with no parallel: hauling water from the Red Sea to replenish the Dead Sea. The 3.5-billion-euro (4.5-billion-dollar) "Peace Canal" is the heart of the government's vision of slaking thirst in a country that is mostly bone-dry desert and one of the 10 driest places in the world.

At present, the country's main conduit is the 110-kilometre (68-mile) King Abdullah Canal, which brings "blue gold" down the valley of the River Jordan from a range of small rivers in the north of the country.…But five successive years of below-average rainfall have added significantly to the country's water stress, fuelling fears that worse is to come when man-made climate change really bites.

…"We are one of the poorest countries in the world in water resources. I am worried for the future that we will receive less quantity of water than we have now because of climate change," said Shafig Habash, managing director of the King Abdullah Canal's control centre in Deir Alla. "The climate is really changing," he told AFP. "We see it and we feel it. I remember, 15 to 20 years ago, the rain was more heavy and the temperatures were less."

…The World Bank is carrying out a feasibility study into the scheme. But even before it clears the technical hurdles and seeks to assemble a mountain of funds, the project faces enormous diplomatic problems. It has to be approved by Israel and the Palestinian territories as well as Jordan, and thus becomes a card in the poker game of Middle East peace. Environmentalists, too, have their doubts, fearing that an influx of seawater could have a bad impact on the Dead Sea's strange yet fragile ecosystem….

A sinkhole in the Dead Sea, shot by Hoshana, Wikimedia Commons, under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2

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