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September 10, 2015 6:35 am

Environmentalists Slam Israel-Jordan Water-Exchange Plan

avatar by Michael Bachner / Tazpit News Agency

The Jordan Valley overlooking Lake Tiberias. Photo: PikiWiki - Israel free image collection project.

The Jordan Valley overlooking Lake Tiberias. Photo: PikiWiki – Israel free image collection project.

Jordan Valley – An Israeli plan to supply Jordan with water from the Sea of Galilee via a new pipeline is drawing harsh criticism from environmentalists.

“Israel shouldn’t build an expensive new water pipe. The water should be transferred through the natural route, the Jordan River, in order to revive its wildlife,” Ram Hachmon, one of the protest leaders, told Tazpit .

Hachmon, head of agriculture Kibbutz Degania Bet near the Jordan River, said, “The Israel Water Authority is trying to distract anyone who asks questions. They promise to transfer extra water to the river, but these are empty words and difficult to implement.”

Since Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1993, Israel has been supplying Jordan with 50 cubic meters of water per year from the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel, which also supplies much of Israel’s fresh water.

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According to the plan, which will be hammered out over the next few weeks, Israel will build a new pipeline to supply more water in exchange for desalinated water from a Jordanian facility near Aqaba in the South.

The plan, supported by the Israel Water Authority and the Ministry of Environmental Protection, received hundreds of official objections. “Many environmentalist movements joined us, objecting to the plan and issuing press announcements,” Hachmon told Tazpit.

The Israeli authorities delegated the task of transferring the water to Mekorot, Israel’s national water company. Hachmon complained that “because Mekorot deals with pipes, they chose to stick to what they know and ignore the Jordan River’s dire situation.”

“We prepared an alternative plan and presented it to the authorities, but Mekorot object to it,” he said. “They want to lead the plan because of the large amount of money involved.”

A spokesperson from the Water Authority commented to Tazpit: “We place much importance on rehabilitating the Jordan River. Israel has invested hundreds of millions of shekels in a variety of projects to clean the Jordan River, increase the river’s fresh water allocation, and decrease its brackish water allocation. We currently release 10 million cubic meters of water per year from the Sea of Galilee, and this figure will gradually increase to 30 million, in order to achieve ecological rehabilitation and tourism development.”

The Ministry of Environmental Protection responded to Tazpit: “We have been involved in the plan from the beginning. Our position is that the water pipe can and should be built, to provide water to the Hashemite Kingdom. Independently, action should and is being taken to expand the river’s water allocation, but the issue isn’t connected to the pipe.”

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