AFP reports that Jordan has decided to go it alone and build a $2 billion canal from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea without help from Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Fayez Batayneh, the country's chief representative in the project said, "Jordan is thirsty and cannot wait any longer."
He added that the project will provide drinking water and begin refilling the Dead Sea, which is on course to dry out by 2050. Batanyeh said, "Israel and the Palestinians have raised no objection to Jordan starting on the first phase by itself. The first stage, at an estimated cost of $2 billion, will begin in 2010 and should be completed in 2014 on a BOT (build, operate, transfer) basis."
In response, a spokesman for Vice prime Minister and Minister for Regional Development Silvan Shalom told Globes that the Jordanians are talking about starting a pilot project that was agreed in June with the Jordanians, Shalom and World Bank president Robert Zoellick..
A ministry spokesman told "Globes, "Actions on the Jordanian side are coordinated with Israel and not unilateral."
The Jordanian plan is for the canal to draw off 310 million cubic meters (10.5 billion cubic feet) of water each year, of which 240 million cubic meters will be fed into the desalination plant at the Jordanian Red Sea port of Aqaba, enabling an annual production of 120 million cubic meters of drinking water.
Batayneh said the remaining 190 million cubic meters will be channeled towards replenishing the Dead Sea.
Jordan, whose population of six million people is growing by 3.5% annually is recognized as one of the 10 driest countries in the world, with desert covering 92% of its territory. The kingdom relies mainly on winter rain for its water needs, which are projected to reach 1.6 billion cubic meters in 2015.
In 2005, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan agreed on the outlines of a project to channel two billion cubic meters of water a year via a 200 kilometer canal in order to restore the level of the Dead Sea, produce fresh water and generate electricity.
The total cost of the scheme has been estimated at $11 billion.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on September 29, 2009
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2009