Israel and Jordan yesterday published a tender for a canal from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. The tender solicits participation by Israeli and international companies in a preliminary selection procedure for the project. Bids will be accepted up until March 2016. The Red-Dead Sea Canal is designed to save the Dead Sea, the level of which has been falling yearly, and to arrange the distribution of water between Israel and Jordan.
Israel and Jordan signed a letter of intent about the project already in 2013 at the World Bank offices in Washington. Last February, Jordanian Minister of Water and Irrigation Hazim El Nasser and then-Minister of National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Resources and current deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom signed a Red-Dead Sea Canal agreement for the laying of four pipelines for carrying Red Sea water to the Dead Sea. The first pipeline to be laid will be 200 kilometers long, and will be located entirely in Jordan.
Work on the pipeline is slated to take three years, and the water from it will be supplied through a desalinization facility to be constructed in Aqaba in Jordan. Israel will buy water for the Arava region and Eilat from this facility. In exchange, Israel is undertaking to supply water from Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee) to northern Jordan. The desalinization facility will be built and operated using the build, operate, and transfer (BOT) method, meaning that the company that wins the tender for building the facility will operate it for 25 years, after which the facility will become state property.
Shalom welcomed the publication of the tender, saying, "We have taken another historic step towards saving the Dead Sea. The joint international tender to be published is proof of the cooperation between Israel and Jordan, and constitutes and answer to all those who doubted that the Red-Dead Sea Canal project would ever be carried out."
Who will foot the bill?
The main cost in the project is the estimated $400 million for building the long pipeline. Israel hopes and believes that the pipeline will be financed by donors wishing to help save the Dead Sea. Government sources said that several countries had already expressed interest in helping to finance the pipeline, including France and Japan.
A senior Israeli water sector source with firsthand knowledge of the project stated today, however, "No international party will be willing to provide $400 million in financing for the project. European agencies have no interest in improving relations between Israel and Jordan," the source asserted. "The only way they'll manage to finance the pipeline is if the company building the desalinization facility finances a large part of it."
The same source added that the project would not save the Dead Sea. "According to the reports, the project is supposed to raise the Dead Sea water line by 10 centimeters a year, but the Dead Sea is falling by one meter every year," the source said. The environmental organizations are also criticizing the projects, calling it "an attempt to cover up the government's failure to save the Dead Sea."
EcoPeace Middle East (formerly Friends of the Earth Middle East) Israel director Adv. Gidon Bromberg this morning stated, "The limited Red-Dead Sea pipeline project signed in 2013 must be stopped before it causes irreversible environmental damage to the Dead Sea as we know it. The desire to build a desalinization facility is praiseworthy, but at the same time, linking the decision to the promotion of grandiose and environmentally destructive projects, such as piping Red Sea water into the Dead Sea, is questionable and superfluous.
"The same sources making statements about building a pipeline to the Dead Sea and international financing are the ones who are concealing and preventing possible solutions for saving the Dead Sea, including substantially increasing the flow of water in the lower Jordan River and government measures to ensure more conservation in Israel Chemicals' (TASE: ICL: NYSE: ICL) use of Dead Sea water. These two solutions are both economically superior and more environmentally beneficial."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on December 2, 2015
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