The water of the Jordan River, debilitated by waste and intensely utilized for agriculture, may finally become cleaner thanks to steps now being taken by the governments of Israel and Jordan.
The Environmental Protection Ministry and the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and Galilee are expected within weeks to submit a plan to the cabinet to allocate NIS 99 million to that very goal.
There has recently been a breakthrough in terms of regional cooperation on improving the Jordan's water, according to Gidon Bromberg, director of Friends of the Earth-Middle East. The group, consisting of Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians, has successfully pressured their governments into acting to save the river.
Only 4 percent of the amount of water that flowed through the southern Jordan River 80 years ago still flows through it after Israel built a dam to hold back Kinneret water to benefit the National Water Carrier. Jordan and Syria, for their part, have built dams in recent years on the Yarmouk River, the Jordan's main tributary.
Waste flows into the river from nearby communities and farms on both the Israeli and the Jordanian sides. A channel carrying saline water from springs in the Kinneret lake bed also leads to the Jordan. As a result, the Jordan has become polluted and sometimes has run nearly dry. This has damaged flora and fauna and threatens to ruin the traditional baptismal site of Kasr al-Yehud east of Jericho.
Initiatives to change this picture are coming from local bodies such as the Southern Jordan Drainage Authority and the Emek Hama'ayanot Regional Council in the Beit She'an area. These two agencies recently invited area residents to a public hearing where they presented their master plan for the river's rehabilitation.
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