By TIA GOLDENBERG
2013-12-10 03:42 AM
JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israel, the Palestinians and Jordan signed on Monday an agreement that will see a pipeline built to channel water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea and help address water scarcity in the region.
The 180-kilometer (111-mile) pipeline will carry some 200 cubic meters of water a year, which is to be desalinated at a plant to be built in Jordan and then ferried for use in Jordan and Israel. Some of that water will be fed into the Dead Sea in a bid to replenish its receding waters. The Palestinians say Israel is set to provide them additional quantities of water under the agreement, beyond what they already receive as part of previous agreements.
The deal was lauded by Israel's Water and Regional Cooperation Minister Silvan Shalom as "historic" but it elicited criticism from experts and environmentalists.
Eli Raz, a geologist and biologist at Israel's Dead Sea and Arava Science Center, praised the project as a symbol of regional cooperation, but said it would do little to alleviate the Dead Sea's woes. The Dead Sea is losing roughly 1 billion cubic meters of water each year, he said, while the project would only return about 10 percent of that amount.
"As a symbol, it's very good. In respect for the Dead Sea, the deficit, the water balance, this is nothing," he said.
A larger project envisioned in the past, linking either the Red Sea or the Mediterranean to the Dead Sea via a large canal, remains unlikely. Raz said such ideas have suffered from high costs and environmental concerns.
Mira Edelstein, from the Friends of the Earth Middle East environmental group, said the plan threatens the "environmental sensitivity" of the Dead Sea.
The pipeline is expected to cost between $300-400 million and set to be completed within three years of a tender announcement in 2014. It was not immediately clear who would fund the project.