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Israel says 'Peace Canal' could benefit all Mideast

by Staff Writers
Shuneh, Jordan (AFP) Dec 22, 2008
A planned 4.5 billion dollars "Peace Canal" to bring water from the Red Sea to the fast evaporating Dead Sea could benefit the entire Middle East, an Israeli minister said in Jordan on Monday.

"I think that all the region will benefit from the project," Israeli Minister of Infrastructure Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told reporters on the sidelines of a conference on water on the shore of the Dead Sea.

Though Jordan has the most to gain, ensuring the survival of the Dead Sea "would serve the nations" of the region, Ben-Eliezer said, highlighting the need for the canal and the linked construction of a desalination plant.

"I believe that 60 percent of desalinated water will go to Jordan," he said, noting that the project's environmental studies will take "about a year and a half."

Jordan's overall population of nearly six million is growing by almost 3.5 percent annually, and it is one of the world's 10 most water-impoverished countries, relying mainly on rainfall to meet its needs.

The project is expected to provide Jordan, which consumes more than 900 million cubic metres (31.5 billion cubic feet) every year, with 500 million cubic metres (17.5 billion cubic feet) of water annually.

It would also stabilise the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth -- retreating at the rate of a metre (more than three feet) a year -- by taking water from the Red Sea 180 kilometers (110 miles) away.

The World Bank is carrying out a feasibility study into the scheme, but many technical and political hurdles remain.

It has to be approved by both Israel and the Palestinian territories as well as Jordan, and thus becomes a card in the poker game of Middle East peace

At present, the country's main water conduit is the 110-kilometer (68-mile) King Abdullah Canal, which brings "blue gold" down the valley of the River Jordan from a range of small rivers in the north of the country.

At the conference, Jordan urged regional cooperation to develop sustainable management of water resources in the Middle East, to meet growing demands and face climate challenges.

"We must find appropriate solutions to bridge the gap," Minister of Water Raed Abu Seoud told ministers from European Union and Mediterranean states.

"We believe that there is a need to concentrate efforts and integrate development to have solutions at the regional level, and we are working hard to promote this cooperation," the minister said at the opening of the meeting.

The one-day event sought to establish the broad framework of a long-term plan for water in the Mediterranean and to establish the first concrete plans in the sector.

According to the closing statement, the meeting agreed on a strategy focussed on tackling climate change challenges.

"The strategy will have targets concerning the preservation of water quality and the reduction of pressure on water resources through more efficient use," the statement said, calling the plan "very ambitious yet realistic."

The ministerial conference was due to take place in October in the kingdom, but it was postponed due to tensions between the Arab League and Israel over the participation of the two sides, according to officials.

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FAO says Africa needs massive water investment
Sirte, Libya (AFP) Dec 15, 2008
Africa needs investment of 65 billion dollars over the next 20 years if food production is to keep pace with the rapid expansion of its population, a UN agency said on Monday.

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