The Peace Canal, a project which has been pending for several decades, was never so close to being completed. Faced with the drying out of the Dead Sea, the idea of guiding fresh water from the Red Sea has once again been put on the table.
This project consists of digging a canal joining the Red Sea to the Dead Sea, taking advantage of the 400 meters of elevation between the two seas. Instigated by the authorities in Palestine, Israel and Jordan, the Peace Canal project was intended to prevent the drying out of the Dead Sea. However, unfortunately, the project was never put into action.
Faced with the urgency of the current situation, the various parties involved have come back to the idea. Time is of the essence, can be seen in an account from Moussa Salim al-Athem, a farmer from Jordan living south of the Dead Sea:
“Only a sea can fill a sea…. Before 1967, the water was a ten minute walk from my home; nowadays, it takes an hour [to reach the water].”
The Dead Sea is currently getting smaller, creating an incredible and almost lunar landscape, with craters and salt sculptures. The evaporation of this expanse of water is augmented by the decreased flow from the River Jordan, which has been over exploited by Israel and Jordan for producing hydroelectricity.
The Peace Canal has had numerous proposals over the past number of decades. However, in 2013, a proposal for an aqueduct project was selected and agreed between Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian authorities. The first stage in this project is to pump 300 million cubic meters of water from the Red Sea towards the Dead Sea (200 km to the North), after desalination.
Frederic Maurel, a specialist engineer from the French Agency for Development who is in charge of the project, has indicated that stabilising the water levels in the Dead Sea would require more economical usage of water in farming, but also in the potash industry (a salt ore used mainly in the production of fertilisers).
Although Isreal still need to confirm the provision of 140 million dollars towards the project, it has never been closer to being put into action. And outside of the implications for the environment and the local population in their everyday lives, it would also be a step towards easing a conflict that has been going on for far too long.