'Israel in worst shape for water resources in Mideast'

Indian thinktank report claims countries can make "blue peace" with water management, solve deadlocks between Israel, PA, Syria.

By JPOST.COM STAFF
February 12, 2011 10:35
3 minute read.
Dead Sea Drying Up

Dead Sea Drying Up311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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An Indian thinktank, Strategic Foresight Group, released a report Saturday that claims that Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian territories are in the worst shape in the Middle East with clean water resources, citing a 500-700 million cubic meter water deficit each. Middle Eastern counties will have no choice to cooperate as water resources in the region dwindle causing shortages, the report said.

The investigative report was launched by Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey, who, according to AFP, said "The report comes to an alarming conclusion; five of the seven countries are experiencing a structural shortage, and debit of most of the big rivers has declined by 50 to 90 percent since 1960."

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Calmy-Rey also called for stronger cooperation between Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey on managing the scant available water resources, adding water's potential to create a "blue peace."

"In the future the main  geopolitical resource in the Middle East will be water more than oil," he added.

The report warned, however, that "The countries that are friendly today may be antagonistic tomorrow and the ones which are enemies today may be friends tomorrow," adding that "The history of merely last ten years in the Middle East demonstrates how quickly the geopolitical scene changes."

The report claimed to have provided a "regional perspective," explaining that watercourses both above and below surface do not adhere to "political boundaries." The investigation highlights the shrinking of the Dead Sea to a small lake by 2050, depletions of the Yarmouk and Jordan Rivers, as well as the drying-up of the Euphrates River due to droubt, and also added that the technical solutions developed in Israel to water issues will only last for a short period of time.



Commenting on water issues in Israel and the Palestinian territories, the report cited a "fundamental misunderstanding between water experts" on both sides concerning the withdrawal from available aquifers. The report stressed that a peace accord will allow the Palestinians and Israelis to a "fair management of water resources by equitable participation of both parties."

As for joint Israeli-Jordanian-Palestinian water resource management, the report said that the ongoing Red-Dead Sea Canal (RDC) project, a 112 mile pipeline from the Red Sea to the Dead sea would be used both to replenish dwindling waters in the Dead Sea, as well as creating desalinated water for all three parties by using hydro-electric power created by the 400 meter drop from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba, Eilat's coastline.

The report noted that due to Jordan's funding difficulties for it's own $2 billion desalination project at the Dead Sea, it can be expected that the "more ambitious" RDC project may face potential financial problems once feasability and environmental studies have been completed for the venture.

Israel and Syria may also see their water issues become the focal point of potential peace negotiations, as Lake Kinneret has become a central issue of "secret" talks between the countries since Israel conquered the Golan in 1967.

The report recommended that Israel and Syria break the current deadlock by engaging in joint-water management on the lake and surrounding tributaries, citing the contentious nature of the issue given the unlikelihood that Israel will disengage from the Golan in the near future, or that Syria will give up claims to the Kinneret's eastern shoreline.

The report claims that Israel and Syria have "attempted exploring a compromise on many occasions" to turn the area's water resource into a Regional commons, working to sustain water bodies within a certain time frame and agreeing on a set of principals regarding the management of their shared ecosystem.

As for Israel's unilateral, technical solutions, the report said that such projects "will mainly work for a decade or so, but Israel will have to look for external sources and regional cooperation beyond 2020 to ensure its water security."

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