A conventional desalination project with a regional "water exchange" aspect is being signed today; NOT the Red Dead Canal
2013-12-09

MEDIA RELEASE

Israeli Minister Silvan Shalom misleading the public;
A conventional desalination project with a regional "water exchange" aspect is being signed today;
NOT the "Red Dead Canal" project

December 9, 2013

In response to Israeli Minister of Regional Cooperation, Mr. Silvan Shalom's declaration whereby Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority will be signing today on the "Red Dead Canal" project, Gidon Bromberg, Israeli Director of EcoPeace / Friends of the Earth Middle East - a regional organization that promotes cooperation on environment and water issues, and is involved with efforts to rehabilitate the Dead Sea - criticizes this statement and says:

"Unfortunately, Mr. Shalom is misleading the Israeli public by announcing the beginning of the 'Red Dead Canal' project. The project being discussed today, however, is a very different project".

Munqeth Meyhar, FoEME's Jordanian Director, explains: "What is being signed today is a conventional desalination project, albeit with a regional perspective, that includes a desalination plant to be built 18 km. north of Aqaba - that will provide about 50 million cubic meters of water to Eilat, in exchange for water from the Sea of Galilee – to supply approximately 50 million cubic meters of water to Jordan."

The 'Red Dead Canal' project, which was studied by the World Bank, was a grandiose project involving the transfer of 2 Billion cubic meters of water from Aqaba to the Dead Sea, with the construction of a desalination facility near the Dead Sea, and hydro-electric power generated by exploiting the difference in elevation - with this power to be used to produce about 800 million cubic meters of potable water. The World Bank concluded the project not feasible, both for economic reasons and for environmental reasons – due to the possible fear of negative environmental impacts on the Dead Sea.

Mr. Bromberg continues: "EcoPeace / Friends of the Earth Middle East certainly supports such a water exchange program, however, the transfer of the brine from the desalination plant proposed from Aqaba to the Dead Sea renders this project not feasible, for the same reasons noted in the World Bank studies. Since the subject of a conventional desalination plant in Aqaba was not tested by experts of the World Bank, Friends of the Earth Middle East calls for an environmental study to be undertaken, studying the possibility of drying / evaporating the brine in the desert, or releasing it back to the Red Sea. The treatment of brine requires professional examination, and no project should be advanced until sufficient research is carried out. Based on the research already done by the World Bank, the brine should not be transferred into the Dead Sea because of detrimental impacts."

The tender for this water exchange project will include 2 alternatives for treatment of brine: (1) to discharge the brine back to the Red Sea, 45 km. south of Aqaba, near the Saudi Arabia border; and (2) to discharge the brine via a pipe to the Dead Sea. This second alternative will have to first meet environmental requirements as well as the extra 400 million dollars just to lay the pipe, before it can go forward.

Cynically, Minister Silvan Shalom continues to call this project an environmental project to Save the Dead Sea, even when the Red Sea waters can damage and irreversibly affect the Dead Sea and a peace project that is including all sides. FoEME's Palestinian Director, Nader Khateeb says: "even if this project includes selling an additional 30 million cubic meters of water to Palestine, it continues to ignore riparian rights of Palestinians on the Dead Sea and the Palestinians fair share of water allocation."

Minister Shalom needs to recognize that the canal project is not environmentally nor economically sound, and any attempt to connect the subject of the Dead Sea are only doing damage to other sensible projects of water exchange.

For more information:
Gidon Bromberg, gidon@foeme.org, 052-4532597
Munqeth Mehyar, munqeth@foeme.org, +962-777548477
Nader Khateeb, nader@foeme.org, 059-9606544
Mira Edelstein, Foreign Media officer, mira@foeme.org, 054-6392937