114 US, Canadian cities sign on to rehabilitating the Jordan River

Rehabilitation of the Jordan River has been an ongoing process in recent years, with the most recent development occurring when in March.

April 25, 2015 17:15
2 minute read.
Kishon River drainage

Kishon River drainage. (photo credit: AVISHAG SHAR YASHUV)

The mayors of 114 American and Canadian Great Lakes cities signed a memorandum of understanding on Friday to take part in efforts to rehabilitate the Jordan River.

Led by EcoPeace: Middle East (formerly Friends of the Earth Middle East) and the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, the mayors signed the preliminary partnership agreement at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Water after Borders summit. Among the participating cities are the major metropolises of Detroit, Chicago, Toronto and Montreal.

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The endeavor, which will involve the exchange of professional knowledge, fund-raising and official visits, will receive support from the Sister Cities International and the Citizen Diplomacy Initiatives organizations.

“The importance of the Jordan River in our region is especially great for all the residents of the area – Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians – both on an environmental and economic level,” said Gidon Bromberg, Israeli director for the Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian Eco- Peace organization.

Mayors and government officials attending the Chicago conference from Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian Lower Jordan Valley local authorities represented communities already participating in EcoPeace’s Good Water Neighbors program, which has been operating for the past 14 years.

Rehabilitation of the Jordan River has been ongoing in recent years, with the most recent development occurring in March when the Israeli Water Authority announced that Tiberias sewage soon would flow to a new treatment facility. The NIS 120 million project brings an end to a situation in which the city’s raw sewage was entering the river.

Today, the Water Authority is releasing 10 million cubic meters of clean water annually into the once stagnant Jordan River, an amount that will increase to 20 m.cu.m. upon completion of the desalination plant. Eventually, the authority plans to release a total of 30 m.cu.m. of water down the river annually.

Environmentalists, particularly those at EcoPeace, have long argued that restoration of flow to the Jordan River is the most vital mechanism toward saving both the river and the Dead Sea, where it ends.

“We hope that the partnership declared among the participating cities will lead to significant progress in the rehabilitation of the Jordan River,” Bromberg said. “It is an honor for us to be part of an international partnership that has led to significant results in the rehabilitation of rivers and lakes around the world that are much, much larger than the Jordan River.”

As for the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Initiative, the coalition of American and Canadian local officials was established in 2003, to integrate regional environmental, economic and social agendas to rehabilitate the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. Cooperation among the initiative’s partners has led to about $250 million worth of restoration projects in an area that has about 20 percent of the world’s fresh surface water supply and provides drinking water for about 40 million people, EcoPeace said.

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