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Middle east

Israelis and Palestinians join forces to save Dead Sea

© Photo: AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-12-10

Representatives from Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority have signed a deal to better manage water in the region, create new fresh water through desalination and build infrastructure that could help save the shrinking Dead Sea.

Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian officials signed an agreement on Monday to share and increase water resources in the arid region, which includes possible measures to save the rapidly shrinking Dead Sea, the World Bank announced.

The deal is part of a project that has been in the works since 2005 and is meant to halt the environmental degradation of the Dead Sea, desalinate water and “build a symbol of peace and cooperation” in the Middle East.

“I am pleased that the long-term engagement of the World Bank has facilitated this next step by the three governments, which will enhance water availability and facilitate the development of new water through desalination,” the World Bank’s Inger Andersen said at the signing ceremony at the group's headquarters in Washington.

The deal outlines three regional initiatives that will be pursued in the coming months, including the development of a desalination plant in Aqaba at the head of the Red Sea, increased releases of water by Israel from Lake Tiberias for use in Jordan, and the sale of desalinated water from Israel to the Palestinian Water Authority for use in the West Bank.

In addition, a pipeline from the desalination plant at Aqaba will convey brine to the Dead Sea to study the effects of mixing this salty by-product of desalination with Dead Sea water.

A major objective of the project is to study the consequences of mixing Red Sea and Dead Sea waters – an idea that has been around for over a century.

Environmental groups have long warned of the adverse effects of a pipeline linking the two bodies of water, such as the possibility of new algae and mineral-deposits changing the colour of the Dead Sea.

The Dead Sea, technically a lake, is a tourist spot famous for its salty waters that allow bathers to float. Its mineral-rich mud, used for skin treatment, is sold around the world.

As the population has increased in the region, water has been diverted from the Jordan river, the Dead Sea’s natural water source, for drinking and agriculture.

The World Bank said that more technical work and studies were needed before the initiatives could proceed.

(FRANCE 24 with Reuters)

Date created : 2013-12-10

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