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Jordan to proceed with the first phase of canal project linking the Red Sea and the Dead Sea

The Jordanian Prime Minister, Abdullah al-Nusour, announced on Monday that his country has decided to proceed with the first phase of constructing a canal linking the Dead Sea, where the waters are expected to dry out by 2050, with the Red Sea.

Jordan is ranked among the top ten poorest countries in water resources.

"This project will desalinise more than 100 cubic meters of salt water from the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba into freshwater, and will cost around 980 million dollars", al-Nusour said at a press conference.

Al-Nusour explained that, "Water will be extracted from the Gulf of Aqaba, north of Wadi Araba until it reaches Resiha heights. There the water will be desalinised and divided into two parts: freshwater and saltwater. The saltwater will be pumped into the Dead Sea, whereas the freshwater will go south of Aqaba."

"The Kingdom needs freshwater in the four northern provinces: Irbid, Mefraq, Jerash and Ajloun. Those areas will all have a larger supply of freshwater," al-Nusour pointed out.

"We are considering taking some water from the Sea of Galilee in exchange for giving Israel some of the desalinised water from the Gulf of Aqaba, primarily because pumping this water up to the north would coast us billions," said al-Nusour.

"We will sell Israel water from the south and buy water from them in the north because they are in need of water in the south and we are in need of water in the north."

According to Hazem Nasser, the Jordanian Minister of Water and Irrigation, Jordan does "not have any alternative to this project. It must be implemented for the benefit of the higher national strategy." Nasser added that, "the project will provide Jordan with more than 100 cubic meters of water dispersed among northern and southern areas. It will revive initiatives to save the Dead Sea from depletion and degradation, and preserve the environment and environmental investments."

"This project will also benefit the Palestinian side because they will receive more water in whatever region they chose", Nasser added. "We do not need to sign an agreement with Israel because the Dead Sea and the Red Sea were already discussed in the peace agreement between Jordan and Israel that was signed in 1994. Certain points in the agreement indicate that Israel is obligated to provide Jordan with at least 50 cubic meters of water in any region that Jordan chooses."

Representatives from Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority all announced in December 2006 that they were undergoing a serious study to build a canal that would link the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. The study, which was conducted by the World Bank and these three parties, estimated that the project would cost around 11 billion dollars. The initiative to build a canal linking the two seas was discussed many years ago; however, the project did not progress due to the stalemate in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Today the project can no longer be ignored due to the Dead Sea's exacerbated environmental conditions, as water levels continue to decrease at a rate of one meter per year.

With a population of approximately 7 million people, Jordan is considered to be among the top ten countries lacking in water resources and depends on rainwater to meet its needs.

Jordan is a country in which ninety-two per cent of its land constitutes a desert. It will require over 1,600 billion cubic meters of water a year in order to meet its needs by 2015.

The goal of the 'Peace Canal,' as the project is being dubbed, is to save the Dead Sea, which is considered to be the lake with the highest level of salinity in the world, as well as the lowest geographical point on earth. The project also seeks to desalinise seawater into freshwater.

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