Posted by: tammystern | May 5, 2010

A Conference to Bring Back the Jordan River Rapids, Rapidly

jordan-river-2010-1918

The Jordan River today (left) and in 1918 (right)

On May 3rd and 4th FoEME held an international conference entitled “Bringing the Jordan River Back to Life: Strategies for Rehabilitation” in Amman, Jordan to present two complementary reports on what is needed to rehabilitate the Jordan River. Together the reports identify the amount of water needed to rehabilitate the Lower Jordan River and how Israel, Jordan, and Palestine can meet this rehabilitation goal.

New strategies for replenishing the river’s flow by adopting new technologies and developing tourism in the Jordan River Valley through attractions like the proposed transboundary Jordan River Peace Park and the Jordan River baptism site provided a regional platform for an exchange of ideas and political support–the underlying goal of the conference and publications.

The Jordanian, Israeli, and Palestinian FoEME offices presented the never-before attempted process of sampling and testing the river water and collecting historic data on earlier conditions of the river. The comparison of the historic river rapids and flourishing willow trees to today’s contaminated “pools and runs” which support not much more than the common reed and account for a 50% loss in biodiversity was daunting, but still the tone of the conference remained mostly positive.

Experts on river rehabilitation, biodiversity, water conservation economics, and tourism planning, as well as local regional leaders of the Jordan River Valley communities shared some technicalities of making the two reports the foundation of a feasible regional water master plan.  In addition to the hard facts, panelists and speakers related to the Jordan rehabilitation through personal anecdotes; one speaker remembered the gushing Jordan River of his childhood, another compared the Jordan’s condition to his experience with the contamination and clean-up of the Great Lakes in the US, and another referred to the quelling of controversies around the Douro River between Spain and Portugal. No matter when you are from, you can share in the vision of a healthy Jordan River.

foeme-jordan-river-rehabilitation-conference-

Over 150 participants from Israel, Palestine, and Jordan convened to discuss the fate of the Jordan River

That said, the challenges being faced are clear.  Outside criticism from Jordanian “anti-normalization” activists, reminders of how Palestinian communities have no access to the Lower Jordan River, and the absence of Syria, a significant riparian to the Lower Jordan River, from the discussions were each recognized at the conference.  The strategy for overcoming these challenges, however, was to focus on what could be done concurrently with the peace process.  That includes a political recognition of FoEME’s proposed strategy for replenishing the Jordan and striking a better balance of water supply and demand between agriculture and tourism.

Rehabilitation of the Jordan River requires a long term regional commitment but the next generation of leaders and advocates for rehabilitation of the Jordan was well represented by the students from King’s Academy who presented a short investigatory film about the realities and needs of the Jordan River and spoke about their partnership with Israeli and Palestinian youth through FoEME’s Good Water Neighbors program. Participants left the conference encouraged to continue their work toward giving life back to the Jordan.

Visit FoEME’s website to download the report, or to find out more information about FoEME’s ongoing Jordan River Rehabilitation Project.

This post was written by FoEME intern Tammy Stern.  Tammy is based in FoEME’s Tel Aviv office.

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Responses

  1. “Reblogging” this item on IsraelEnviroNet (http://www.israelenviro.net/) later today.
    Russell Cohen, Editor: IsraelEnviroNet

  2. […] Related blog post: A Conference to Bring Back the Jordan River Rapids, Rapidly […]


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