Jordan Times

Source of water problem
Amman, April 14, 2006

For us more than for other peoples of the region, it is particularly distressing that the river that gave our country its name should be reduced to the condition it is in today.

Israel closed the tap, and the Jordan River is dying.

The project for a peace park encompassing both banks of the river will hopefully make a larger Jordanian and Israeli public aware about how dirty, polluted and feeble this once mighty water course, sacred to millions around the world, has become.

Experts and environmentalists have not been mincing words. Some of them are on the record describing the Jordan River as “a sewage channel” and saying that today's current flow is less than 10 per cent of the original one.

Fortunately, Jordan has so far been quite successful in pushing forward projects to remedy its chronic water scarcity. Some of the projects are more long-term, ambitious and innovative, such as plans for a conduit to pump water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea while, at the same time, providing desalinated water for irrigation, helping generate electric power and creating new, precious stretches of coast for tourism development.

Others are less grandiose but equally vital, such as the project for a conveyance system that would bring water from the Disi aquifer, in the south of the country, up to Amman.

Still, though partially relieved at the fact that solutions are being thought of and will hopefully materialise, we cannot help but remind ourselves that Israel — and Israel alone — is to blame for this sad state of affairs.

The stark imbalance in the distribution of water resources in the region is amongst the most obvious reflections of how unfair life in this neighbourhood has been and is, and how the international community has long chosen to turn a blind eye to Israel's despotic policies against its neighbours — be them enemies, semi-enemies, or “friends.” Making an average amongst various World Bank, UN and other independent figures, the average Palestinian uses about 60 litres of water a day, the average Jordanian consumes about 100 litres a day and the average Israeli 900 litres a day — the same as the average US citizen, but well below the European average of 250 litres per day.

For each litre of water that the average Jordanian uses every day, the average Israeli uses nine. And, most importantly, the largest part of Israel's water resources were illegally seized, as a result of occupation or domestic legislation and practices in flagrant contravention of international principles.

The World Water Forum held in Mexico in March rightly pointed out, for example, that Israeli law allows Israelis to dig wells 70 metres deeper than Palestinians, even in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Recently, Israeli authorities have been resorting to security reasons as a pretext to destroy Palestinian reservoirs and wells. The apartheid wall being erected deep within Palestinian lands has also allowed Israel to annex more and more water sources.

Water was amongst the reasons that convinced many Jordanians to reluctantly accept peace with Israel. But that turned out to be somewhat of a miscalculation, too.

Though the peace treaty is clear about Israel having to provide Jordan with additional water resources, Israel is insisting that the onus of finding those extra resources falls on us.

All the water projects we can manage to think about and implement will offer only partial and temporary solutions until we address the real cause of the problem: Israel's overuse of water which doesn't even belong to it.