Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority were expected on Monday to sign an agreement on a Red Sea-Dead Sea pipeline project.
Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom was due to attend what he called the “historic” signing ceremony at the World Bank headquarters in Washington, DC.
“The program has garnered the Prime Minister’s support, along with the support of [Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas among the Palestinians and of course the support of the King of Jordan,” Shalom told Army Radio.
“Today we are going to the signing ceremony which is nothing less than a historical development”.
The trilateral plan includes an international tender to establish a 180-kilometer pipeline that will transport water from a desalination plan in the Gulf of Aqaba to the Dead Sea.
Regional environmental group Friends of the Earth Middle East and the Environmental Protection Ministry have slammed the plan as destructive to the very sea that it aims to save.
In January, the World Bank released three detailed reports regarding a trilateral plan to build a 180-kilometer pipeline to transport water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea – a feasibility study, an environmental and social assessment, and a study of strategic alternatives, drafted by different external authors.
Defining the objectives of such a project as saving the Dead Sea from environmental degradation, desalinating water and generating hydroelectricity at reasonable prices, the World Bank also stressed that the program should be “a symbol of peace in the Middle East,” particularly among the Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian participants.
As those involved have pondered the pros and cons of such a project for a decade, the Dead Sea water level has continued to decline at a rate of one meter per
year, due to the progressive decline of the Jordan River flow.
The feasibility study determined that going ahead with the conduit would feasible, involving 180 km. of tunnels and pipelines, a tremendous desalination plant and two hydropower plants, all in Jordan.
The project will cost an estimated $9.97 billion.
While the feasibility study gave the project an unofficial go-ahead, the environmental and social assessment warned of grave risks such as detrimental “changes to the appearance and water quality” of the Dead Sea as well as damage to the region’s overall ecology.
The third report, on alternatives to the Red-Dead conduit plan, pinpoints an option that combines several solutions – desalination at Aqaba and the Mediterranean shore, with water importation from Turkey and water conservation and recycling.
Although both the Environmental Protection Ministry and Friends of the Earth Middle East vehemently object to carrying out the plan offered in the feasibility study, Regional Cooperation Minister Silvan Shalom has continually supported the project as one that will benefit all sides and save the Dead Sea.
The feasibility study identifies issues that might be bad for the Dead Sea environment, Bromberg explained. Gypsum levels may rise as marine water mixes with the hypersaline Dead Sea. If the gypsum does not crystallize and fails to sink to the sea’s floor, the water will become a milky white color, Bromberg said.
There is also the possibility of rampant red algal blooms following the change in chemical composition of the waters, he said, citing the feasibility study.
View original Jerusalem Post publication at: http://www.jpost.com/Enviro-Tech/Israel-Jordan-PA-to-sign-trilateral-Red-Sea-Dead-Sea-pipeline-plan-334404