Building Bridges Over Troubled Waters

The Jordan River: This is where Joshua parted the waters and crossed over to Jericho. This is where John baptized Jesus. The site is holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims, but all have done little to save it.

Yesterday on Earth Day an Israeli mayor and a Jordanian mayor met in their kayaks mid river (this isn’t the begining of a riddle). They dropped bottles with messages that read: “Rehabilitate the Jordan River now!” and “Bring back the water to the River Jordan!” (of course I don’t have to point out the irony of dropping bottles in a polluted river but that’s not the point)

Over the last few days several people have emailed me about Richard Bangs’ expedition down the Jordan over at Yahoo. In a very interesting journal entry Richard gives a pretty accurate first hand account on what’s going on down there.

The Jordan here is not pure â?? as we have seen, it is mixed with sewage from upriver â?? yet these pilgrims have no hesitation in making a ceremonial dunking, a rebaptism. When I ask one pilgrim she responds, “The river is unclean because of our sins.” Even in secular interpretations, she is right.

The main problem seems to revolve around two things: the flow of sewage water, from both Israel and Jordan, into the river and water diversions (in the form of dams and other such projects)

Just south of it, the Dead Sea is dying (another cruel irony I suppose). It’s main source of fresh water is the Jordan (98%) although what little of that has been diverted as well. So 1 meter dissapears annually, and over the past 50 years alone one third of the surface area has dissapeared.

It has been in the news recently as it was declared by the Global Nature Fund as Threatened Lake of the Year 2006. Meanwhile Israelis and Jordanians are trying to push their government to put the Jordan River on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.

A few months ago I blogged about a Red-Dead Project which is a plan to extend a pipeline that is 200km long which connects the Red Sea to the Dead Sea and therefore pours water from the former into the latter. The estimated cost is said to be $3 billion.

Since both the Dead Sea and the Jordan are in trouble, diverting water from the latter in to the former would not yield the best results. Experts claim that the Dead Sea will need 2 billion cubic meters of water from the Red Sea every year as 66 billion cubic meters has already been evaporated.

It’s really tragic what has happened to these two sites. When you think of an ocean or river disappearing it’s really hard to comprehend it when in reality only a generation or two from now will be around to see both the Jordan and the Dead Sea vanish if nothing is done today. I’m not an expert so I don’t know what an every day citizen can do to help (other than blogging about it in hopes of creating a miniscule amount of awareness). What I do know is that the water will eventually disappear and the world will remember that our generation did nothing. And I also know that pressure needs to be put on governments from both sides to actually do something. Stopping sewage water from flowing into the Jordan for one.


  • This is sad.

    I -the dreamy above signed- think the public should pressure the government to impose certain regulations on individuals and corporations (I suppose not only individuals are responsible for the polution). Newspapers should write more about this, TV and other media outlets should have a role too. Why don’t people start real petitions?

    Also, whoever is sucking out dry both the sea and river should be stopped too.

  • This is awful, and so true of course. What little old me doesn’t get is, HOW COME WATER PARKS ARE BEING BUILT BY THE DEAD SEA THEN!?!?!??! Yes, it’s true, I know one of the investors, it will be opening soon, and I DON’T GET IT. Where are they getting the water???

  • Ok, so maybe I am naive, but why is no one asking Israel why THEY are draining the Jordan river? From where the water for their lovely agricultural projects coem from?

    I was shocked at the Dead Sea recently to see how much had the coastline had receded in the last year, one would think the big bucks of all the resorts there would lobby the Israli government?

  • Both Israel and Jordan dump pollutants and drain water from the river and are responsible for the damage done to the Sea of Salt, which is truly just devastating. There are people in both countries lobbying and working to try to get the situation fixed but more people need to get involved. There needs to be real ground support and pressure on the governments from the average citizen and posts such as this one do a lot for letting people know about the problem and keeping it in the public eye. Unfortunately, with so many other issues beseiging our region of the world, things like the environnment we live in and depend on and cherish tend to get pushed way down the list of things people have to worry about.

    If everyone who reads this post and thinks “what a shame” also sits down and writes a letter to the representative for the environment of their government and says, “hey, fix this!” then maybe we’ll be that much closer to getting the problem repaired, at least as much as it can be repaired. I’m about to go write my letter now.

    Thank you for bringing this important matter to forefront!

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