By AFP – Mar 18,2018 – JORDAN TIMES
A Jordanian farmer works on his land close to the shore of the Dead Sea near the village of Al Haditha in Jordan on March 11 (AFP photo)
GHOR AL HADITHA, Jordan — Jordan and Israel have long pursued a common goal to stop the Dead Sea from shrinking while slaking their shared thirst for drinking water with a pipeline from the Red Sea some 200km away.
Geopolitical tensions have stalled efforts to break ground on the ambitious project for years, but the end of the latest diplomatic spat has backers hoping a final accord may now be in sight.
The degradation of the Dead Sea, on the border of Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian West Bank, began in the 1960s when water began to be heavily diverted from the Jordan River.
“Before 1967, the water was just a 10-minute walk from my house,” said Musa Salim Al Athem, a farmer who grows tomatoes on the banks on the Jordan side.
“Now it takes an hour,” he said, standing amid the resulting lunar landscape of spectacular salt sculptures, gaping sinkholes and craters.
“Only the sea can fill up the sea.”
“Since 1950, the amount flowing in the Jordan has dropped from 1.2 billion cubic metres per year to less than 200 million,” said Frederic Maurel, an engineering expert at the French development agency AFD.
Heavy production of potash, used for making fertiliser, has also accelerated evaporation that has seen the sea’s surface area shrink by a third since 1960.
Experts say water levels are falling one metre a year, and warn it could dry out completely within 30 years.
The sea’s natural beauty and mineral-rich black mud have also provided a source of tourism revenue.