Posted by: EcoPeace Middle East | September 8, 2011

FoEME receives letter from Israeli Minister of Environment Gilad Erdan with the first-ever commitment to return fresh water to the Lower Jordan River.

In the last 50 years, the Lower Jordan River’s (LJR) annual flow has dropped from more than 1.3 billion cubic meters per year to less than 30 million cubic meters.  This decline has resulted in a 50% loss of biodiversity and contributes to 60% of the annual decline of the Dead Sea.  With Israel, Jordan and Syria grabbing as much clean water as they can, it is crucial that we change our practices towards keeping the LJR alive today.

FoEME’s plan to rehabilitate the LJR requires a two-fold approach to both remove the pollutants and return fresh water to the river. Huge advancements have been made in the last years to remove sewage from the River including new sewage plants in various stages of completion that will remove nearly all of the main sources of pollution from Israel, Jordan and Palestine.

The return of fresh water to the river is equally important and FoEME recently received the first ever commitment to return 30 million cubic meters of water back to the LJR!

FoEME initiated a hearing on the LJR in the Israeli Parliament’s Internal Affairs and Environment Committee and resulted in the following statement:

“The Jordan River is of utmost national importance: religiously, politically, historically, environmentally and from a touristic potential. The Lower Jordan has turned into a sewage canal, causing great harm to tourism, the environment, the economy and to the Dead Sea.”

The Israel Ministry of Environment was compelled to clarify its plans for the rehabilitation of the LJR – including fresh water allocations back to the stream.  In a letter to FoEME the Israeli Minister of Environmental Protection Gilad Erdan wrote:

“With the removal of sewage from the Lower Jordan, we will make sure that water of good quality will flow from the Sea of Galilee that will allow the return of the River’s ecological system.  A combination of waters from the Sea of Galilee and saline waters, of at least 30 million cubic meters per year, with greater amounts once aquifer levels rise, will bring back life to the River and rehabilitate it for the benefit of the entire public.” (full text can be seen in Hebrew here)

FoEME’s project to rehabilitate the LJR has recieved widespread support and has mobilized visionary leaders and goodwill champions from Israel, Jordan, and Palestine to develop a dialogue on the issue, demonstrating that such collaboration is possible, despite the prevailing political climate.

Photo by Eddie Gerald

Even more rehabilitation can be accomplished through water conservation and increased efficiencies in the transboundary region.  You can also help us from home or abroad to achieve our goal of returning 400 million cubic meters of high quality water year back to the LJR by signing up for our FoEME Environmental Peacemaking newsletter, following us on facebook, hosting the Lower Jordan River Photo Exhibition, inviting a FoEME representative to speak with your community, writing to your political representatives to encourage them to support regional efforts to rehabilitate the LJR and the Dead Sea, visiting our region and taking a tour on our Neighbors Path (or visiting us virtually via Google Earth), or donating to support FoEME’s regional efforts at www.foeme.org.

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