Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) is satisfied with recently published news regarding the downscaling of the Jordan Red Sea Project (JRSP), proposed in 2009. As Jordanian Director Munqeth Mehyar states, “they admit that the project is inefficient, and we have always been saying there are better and more sustainable alternatives. There are other ways to invest the billions of dollars, rather than creating new water and wasting it, we should reform the system. The desalinization in Aqaba could potentially be a solution, but it should be the last option to be considered.”
This is in response to an article published in The Jordan Times on November 21st reporting on the decision made by the Ministry of Water and Irrigation to “scale down” the project, which would extract 2150 million cubic meters of water from the sea. The project, which was estimated to cost around 10 billion Jordanian Dinars, has now proven to be too expensive to carry out. Additionally it was discovered that it is not a feasible project. As Secretary General Basem Tufflah told The Jordan Times; “Even after dividing the project into phases, we found that the cost of the first phase will be above our estimates and the price of the generated cubic metre will not be affordable to Jordanians.”
These environmental damages have been pointed out in a blog post published by FoEME on August 23rd of this year, explaining that the natural habitat surrounding the canal would be harmed in the form of, to name but a few examples, “changes in water salinity, massive formation of gypsum, formation of volatile toxic compounds, change in water evaporation rates, changes in the composition of bacteria and algae which inhabit the sea surface, chemical changes in the rocks which surround the water, and the loss of the unique health benefits that account for much of the tourist attraction to the Dead Sea area.”
Prior to this, FoEME expressed its doubts in several documents, the latest published in October 2011, named Concerns of EcoPeace / Friends of the Earth Middle East to the World Bank Terms of Reference for the Red Sea – Dead Sea Water Conveyance Project; Feasibility Study – Environmental, Technical and Economic and Environmental and Social Assessment. Additionally, many critical questions were raised on a section of the FoEME website. On this same page, FoEME suggested the investigation of alternatives, and questioned methods used by the World Bank in its feasibility study, in addition to it lacking impartiality and exhaustiveness.
In summary, FoEME hopes that future endeavors will be looked into more extensively and realistically. This in turn would ideally have as an outcome a more durable and environmental solution, keeping natural habitats in tact while reaching the goal of desalinizing water and contributing to the rehabilitation of the Dead Sea.
This blog was written by FoEME intern Lidwien Wijchers, who is based in the Amman office.