Environmentalists oppose Red-Dead canal pilot project

A number of environmentalists are opposed to the start of a pilot project to bring water from the Red to the Dead Sea, saying the World Bank feasibility study on the Red-Dead Water Conveyance Programme was due to be finalized only in 2011.



“Beginning the pilot project in the midst of a feasibility study is completely unacceptable,'' Mira Edelstein of Friends of the Earth Middle East (FOEME), a group of Jordanian, Palestinian and Israeli environmentalists, told IRIN.



FOEME and others believe more detailed studies are needed.



Nitzan Horwitz, a member of the Israeli parliament and chairman of the Lobby to save the Dead Sea, said in a statement: “We call on the government of Israel to halt actions on the Red-Dead Canal until the feasibility study is completed and all possible effects - economic, social and environmental - are examined... We call for further examination of alternative solutions for saving the Dead Sea.”



The rumpus came about after Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom announced a pilot project on 28 June: Some 200 million cubic metres (mcm) of water would be pumped out of the Red Sea of which 100 mcm would be diverted into the Dead Sea and 100 mcm would be used by desalination plants.



Pipeline crosses seismic risk zone



The Red-Dead project envisages a 180km pipeline running from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea, pumping some 1.8 billion cubic metres of water annually from the Red Sea. Of this, 800 mcm would be desalinated for drinking water for Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, and one billion cubic metres a year would be pumped into the Dead Sea, which has been rapidly drying up in recent decades.



The Red Sea - Dead Sea Water Conveyance Study Programme involves Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority and is being managed by the World Bank.



However, some scientists, like Eli Raz from the Dead Sea and Arava Science Centre, say two years is too short a time for the World Bank study.



Massive pumping from the narrow edge of the Gulf of Aqaba might change its ecosystem, and the pipeline route runs over an active seismic area, posing a risk in terms of soil and aquifer contamination by sea water leakage, according to Raz



Raz and others point to studies which indicate mixing sea water with Dead Sea water might cause negative limnological and microbiological impacts, resulting in considerable damage to industry and tourism.



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