Amman (AFP) Sept 27, 2009
Jordan has decided to go it alone and build a two-billion-dollar pipeline from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea without help from proposed partners Israel and the Palestinian Authority, an official told AFP.
"Jordan is thirsty and cannot wait any longer," said Fayez Batayneh, the country's chief representative in the mega-project to provide drinking water and begin refilling the Dead Sea, which is on course to dry out by 2050.
"Israel and the Palestinians have raised no objection to Jordan starting on the first phase by itself," Batayneh said.
"The first stage, at an estimated cost of two billion dollars, will begin in 2010 and should be completed in 2014 on a BOT (build, operate, transfer) basis," he said.
The plan is for the pipeline to draw off 310 million cubic metres (10.5 billion cubic feet) of water each year, of which 240 million will be fed into the desalination plant at the Jordanian Red Sea port of Aqaba, enabling an annual production of 120 million cubic metres of drinking water.
Batayneh said the remaining 190 million cubic metres will be channelled towards the Dead Sea, the saltiest natural lake on the planet and the lowest point on the earth's surface.
Jordan, where the population of six million people is expanding by 3.5 percent a year, is recognised as one of the 10 driest countries in the world, with desert covering 92 percent of its territory.
The kingdom relies mainly on winter rain for its water needs, which are projected to reach 1.6 billion cubic metres in 2015.
Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan agreed in 2005 on the outlines of a project to channel two billion cubic metres of water a year via a 200-hilometre (120-mile) 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 dollars.
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