Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mo' solutions, mo' problems

Sorry for the delay in updating my posts. Things have been a little crazy lately.

Now that I've written about the environmental problems facing the sea of galilee, the jordan river and the dead sea, I'd like to turn now to some solutions that are being proposed for the region. The first of these solutions has been dubbed the "Red-Dead Conduit" and involves creating a pipeline of water from the red sea to the dead sea. This conduit would supply water to Jordan, and would involve a treaty signed on by Israel, Palestine and Jordan.

Sounds good, right? This option is highly attractive because of it's transnational cooperation aspect. The conduit would involve cooperation from all three nations, and would require all three to work together on ensuring its success. It is the first contract to be promoted by all three nations.

So what's the downside? The main downside of this conduit is environmentally based. Primarily, the chemical composition of the two waters may not be completely compatible. It's important to remember that the Dead Sea contains a unique chemical makeup, and that not all waters are filled by the same chemicals. Preliminary studies of combining the two waters show mixed results-- in some cases, successful, and in others, disastrous. According to some environmental researchers, the short term may prove successful, but the long term effects of mixing the waters could prove even more detrimental to the Dead Sea than the evaporation rate.

Furthermore, the red sea is home to many unique species of coral reefs. The building of the red-dead canal could impact the growth of these reefs as well as other unique native wildlife to the region.

There are also concerns that the conduit is being built over an active geological region. The area in the Arava valley (southern Israel/Jordan) is situated along an active fault line, and is at risk for earthquakes. Many researchers are concerned that if an earthquake were to occur, there would not be enough planning/foresight to prevent spillage and possible breakage of the conduit.

Finally, and perhaps the most obvious concern of all, what happens when the Dead Sea is filled up? Would this involve production to cease entirely? Or would the water be diverted elsewhere?

For an interesting analysis, check out:

A second solution is to increase the flow from the Jordan River into the Dead Sea. Now, I've previously covered why it is that the Jordan has been reduced to 10% it's natural flow rate (due to diversions and damming for Israel and Jordan's freshwater access)So, if the sea of galilee is shrinking, and the jordan river is dammed, how can we create a higher flow rate? The answer lies in international cooperation.

The beautiful thing about water is that it knows no geopolitical boundaries. It simply flows where it flows. Turkey, an ally of all the countries in this region affected by the water shortage, has offered to release a portion of its water (now dammed) and allow it all to flow naturally through the river/lake systems.

While this second option is an environmentalist's dream, it is a political nightmare, particularly for Israel. The problem with this option is that, consequentially, Israel would have to be relying on water passing through Syria. While efforts are underway to improve diplomatic relations between Syria and Israel, they've got a long way to go, and water is a particularly tense point between the two nations. It has been argued that one of the main strategic causes for the 1967 war was access to the Banias, a rivershed in Syria, as well as the sea of galilee. This is further exacerbated by Israel's continued occupation of the Golan Heights (a situation I will detail in my next post). Due to these political constraints, the possibility of cooperation between Israel and Syria seems tenuous at best.

Apologies if this post seems a bit depressing. The situation is complicated, and I've only covered the basics. There are a few other plans that are being proposed, each of which has its own merits and difficulties. For a review of the proposals, check out

I've said this before, and I'll reiterate it now, because I think it's a good point to remember: these problems are affecting everyone in the region. It is only a matter of time before the issue turns into a real crisis. The fact that politicians and environmentalists are acting now to address these concerns is actually a good move to help create not only an environmentally, but politically sustainable region.

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