The "peace channel": a crazy project to save the Dead Sea

" Only the sea can fill the sea ," said Moussa Salim al-Athem, who came to dig his tomato plants near Ghor al-Haditha, south of the Dead Sea . Born in 1953, this farmer jordan has seen the blue waters retreat over the years, revealing a lunar landscape of gaping craters and salt sculptures. " Before 1967, the water was ten minutes walk from home, now it takes an hour ," he says.

A treasure that dries up

Spectacular ] salty lake lined with red ocher cliffs the Dead Sea is threatened with extinction. It has lost a third of its surface since 1960 and continues to decline by more than one meter per year. In question, intensive potash operations, which accelerate its evaporation, but especially the decrease in the flow of the Jordan River, increasingly exploited by the two countries it borders, Jordan and Israel . " Since 1950, the flow of the Jordan has dropped from 1.2 billion cubic meters to less than 200 million ," said Frédéric Maurel, expert engineer of the French Development Agency (AFD). A disaster for the Dead Sea and its residents: Jordanians, Israelis and Palestinians

Because with its medicinal black muds, its exceptional salinity, its potash reserves, its tourist attraction, " the Dead Sea has a historical, biblical, natural, tourist, medical and industrial value, making it an invaluable treasure argues Avner Adin, Israeli water specialist. Ideas to stop its decline have not failed. Around 1900, the founding father of Zionism Theodor Herzl had already thought of digging a canal to feed it from the Mediterranean. It is finally the project of an aqueduct leaving from the Red Sea and entirely built on the Jordanian territory which was retained, with the signature in December 2013 of a tripartite agreement between Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians. Regional collaboration bringing hope to this historically troubled region. This agreement initially plans to pump 300 million m 3 seawater, desalination in a dedicated plant north of the Jordanian port of Aqaba to obtain drinking water that is sorely lacking in the region, and to transfer desalinated brines via a pipeline into the Dead Sea, 200 km to the north.

Not enough to stabilize the level of the Dead Sea, but an early solution to curb its drying out, says Frédéric Maurel, in charge of this project for AFD. " There should also be a more economical use of water, both in agriculture and in the potash industry ," he says. In 2015, agreements also provided for reciprocal water sales: Jordan would deliver Israel's drinking water south, which in return would increase its sales of water from the Sea of ​​Galilee to supply Northern Jordan . And the Palestinians would also receive additional water deliveries from Israel. At the end of 2016, five consortia of firms were pre-selected

"Last impetus"

Remains the question of the financing of this public-private partnership, valued at 1 billion dollars, of which 400 million public funds. Some 120 million donations have already been pledged, notably by the United States and Japan. AFD has set up a European group of donors (France, Italy, Spain, the European Union and the European Investment Bank) willing to lend $ 140 million at advantageous rates to Jordan. " We have never been so close to the goal, it misses the last impulse of the Jordanian and Israeli authorities ", stresses Mr. Maurel.

For a diplomatic source in Amman, " project remains essential for the countries of the region Difficult to bring tourists around a salt pool ". But " it remains subjected to the diplomatic vagaries ". The talks were totally frozen after the death in July of two Jordanians killed by an Israeli security officer at the Israeli embassy in Amman. They would be restarting after Israel apologized in mid-January. " In my opinion, the main obstacle could be financial ," judge Avner Adin. Israel, which is also expected to contribute $ 140 million to the project, has not yet confirmed this commitment. In Amman, we are determined to move forward, with or without Israel. " It's a question of national security ," said the secretary general of the Jordan Water Authority, Iyad Dahiyat. " Our groundwater is overexploited, water desalination is Jordan's future, and for us, the Red Sea-Dead Sea project is essential ".

Notre-Dame-des-Landes: a future agricultural project still uncertain

The development of the agricultural project on the former ZAD of Notre-Dame-des-Landes, two months after the abandonment of the airport project, will take "time", acknowledged Thursday the prefect of the region Pays de la Loire, many questions have not been raised, including the identity of future land owners.

The regional prefect, Nicole Klein, elected on March 19, agricultural unions and associations for the first steering committee to build the agricultural project on the 1,650 hectares of the former airport hold, with contours still very vague.

Who will remain, who will leave, who will regain ownership of the lands and who will assume the management? Three weeks after the expiration of the ultimatum set by the executive to 150 to 200 occupants of the ZAD, the prefect reaffirmed that all those who "refuse to enroll in the rule of law will be expelled." 19659002] Possible expulsions will only occur after 31 March, the date on which the winter break ends.

For the occupants who would be "in agreement on the rules to be respected", by paying in particular "the gas, the electricity, a renting" or contributing to the social security agricultural, the MSA, everything will depend on the arbitration decided after the land surrender process, of which the State is currently the sole owner.

On the distribution of land, which the state wants to yield, "there are simple subjects and complicated subjects," acknowledged Ms. Klein.

"The simple subjects are the historic farmers, who are four, who have been expropriated, who have remained on the spot and who wish to recover their lands, either in the form of property or in the form of renting", explained the State representative.

"We will leave a priori, and all agricultural unions agree, the historical where they are," she assured the AFP.

– 'Step by step' –

"After, there is the very complex subject of the county council", which asked the State retrocession of 895 hectares of plots on the former airport hold, said Ms. Klein. The department of Loire-Atlantique had begun to acquire these lands in 1974, before selling them in 2012 to the State and the concessionaire of the airport platform, Aéroports du Grand Ouest, a subsidiary of the BTP Vinci group.

On this point, nothing is decided because "half of the jurists think that the request is legitimate and half think it is not," said the prefect.

The president (PS) of the departmental council, Philippe Grosvalet, fervent defender of the transfer of Nantes airport to Notre-Dame-des-Landes, signed on February 22 a memorandum of understanding with the Chamber of Agriculture so that it manages the land acquired by the department, "with a view to a return to a sustainable agricultural and natural occupation and appeased".

The position of the department "does not simplify things because the chairman of the county council wants to entrust the management to the chamber of agriculture," points the prefers region. "That makes I think the position of some farmers very difficult (…) Is it a factor of appeasement?"

The approach of the Chamber of Agriculture is supported by the FNSEA, Youth farmers and Rural Coordination. The peasant Confederation, a member of a group of agricultural organizations opposed to the former airport project, defends the taking over of land use by the anti-NDDL movement.

A first point of consensus between the various agricultural unions could be found as early as March 19th, all asking for a temporary freeze on the allocation of land, through the maintenance of annual occupation agreements.

"While the positions on the bottom are quite different, everyone agrees that it will take time.I must not forget that the situation has been frozen for years," recalled the prefects Nicole Klein, who wants to go "step by step" on this issue, and in a desire to "appease".

Chinese company revives canal project to save Lake Chad from drying up

How to save the Lake District Chad located on both Cameroon, Niger Nigeria and Chad? A conference organized by the Nigerian Government and Unesco was held in Abuja (capital of Nigeria) from 26 to 28 February 2018. The objective: to preserve this region devastated by climate change and conflicts geopolitical. And, perhaps, avoid the disappearance of the lake, which has lost 90% of its surface in 40 years because of global warming and poor management of water resources. Transaqua, a controversial megaproject conceived in the 1980s to replenish the immense oasis drained by a 2.600km long canal, has resurfaced on this occasion. It is a Chinese company which would be in charge of the construction, if it were to take place.

Financing of US $ 6.5 billion

The United Nations is committed to financing research and development programs. $ 6.5 million to provide assistance to the 40 million people who depend on this lake at the crossroads between the Sahel and Central Africa. As the lake has disappeared and the lack of food it entails, the region has become home to many security crises, including the one maintained by the Nigerian jihadist group Boko Haram.

FOOD INSTABILITY. Small farmers and fishermen quickly joined the ranks of fighters or militias who oppose the group, making this conflict one of the deadliest in the world in a few years. The United Nations estimates that security and food instability has forced 2 million people out of their homes and 10.7 million depend on food aid to survive. The 40 million people living around and on the lake are among the poorest in the world

A feasibility study was commissioned to a Chinese group

To avoid the disappearance of Lake Chad: the urgency is very real , and to face it, the experts gathered at his bedside exhumed Transaqua, a megaproject imagined in the 80s and controversial, which consists of filling the huge drained oasis. The idea, particularly ambitious, is to dig a 2,600 km channel from the Democratic Republic of Congo then through the Central African Republic, to the freshwater lake.

CHINA. The Transaqua project, conceived in 1982 by the Italian engineering and consulting firm Bonifica, involves immense technical and financial challenges, and for these reasons never came into being. But the arrival of a Chinese partner, the Power Construction Corporation of China (PowerChina), which signed an agreement in 2017 with the company behind the project, has recently revived hopes and criticism around the project. Little information has been leaked about the agreement that binds the Italian firm today to the giant PowerChina, except that the latter was commissioned to conduct a feasibility study.

A channel carrying Congolese waters to the lake would be "unacceptable"

For its supporters, Transaqua is the only way to cope with the current humanitarian and environmental crisis. "The transfer of water between different river basins is not an option but a necessity" said Sanusi Abdullahi, executive secretary of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, who oversees the use of water and natural resources. "We are faced with the possibility that Lake Chad will disappear and it will be catastrophic for the whole African continent."

WATER WAR. But the project, which according to an estimate could cost up to 14 billion dollars (11.5 billion euros), raises strong resistance in Kinshasa. The transfer of Congolese waters to Lake Chad is "unacceptable" reacted to the telephone the senator of an opposition party, Modeste Mutinga, author of the book The war of water to the door of the DRC It would be to "disrupt the flow of the Congo River with consequences on ecosystems in the DRC" he told AFP. "We must not seek to solve a problem in a corner and create here in the DRC." ​​ Same reaction in the MP of the majority Bavon N'Sa Mputu Elima, former Minister of the Environment, for whom "it is necessary to solve the problems in the basin of Lake Chad: the misuse of water by Chadian herders, to increase the water quality of the rivers which feed this lake with water by the maintenance of the banks. "

A geopolitical challenge of a discouraging scale

The technical and security challenges that imply a project like Transaqua are also discouraging. The gigantic canal should cross several countries with changing geography and entangled in chronic political instability. In addition to the Boko Haram fighters around Lake Chad, the Central African Republic, in particular, is devastated by years of war and abuses by armed groups that control large areas. And even if time is running out at the pace when the lake's waters are disappearing, PowerChina's Ziping Huang acknowledges that launching such a project with the prevailing security situation in the region is "beyond the imagination of our company ".

COOPERATION. Finally, the last difficulty is to co-operate with the four countries bordering the lake. "These countries must cooperate if they want to face these transnational risks, there is simply no other way to do it ," says Florian Krampe, of the program on climate change and the risks of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. "The question is, are the institutions ready?"

S.S. with AFP

France: Opponents of nuclear waste burying project brave ban on demonstrations

Opponents of the project to bury nuclear waste in a forest in northeastern France announced Friday their intention to override the ban on demonstrations decreed by local authorities who fear this weekend new excesses

A week ago, 500 gendarmes evacuated manu militari about fifteen occupants of the wood Lejuc, the epicenter of the protest, and bulldozers had destroyed bivouacs and barricades.

Before the prospect of new " Serious disturbances to the public order ", the prefect of the Meuse department, Muriel Nguyen, took Thursday night a decree prohibiting" any event. "

" More than 700 opponents are expected "Saturday and Sunday, including" a large number "have a" very disturbing profile, "she told AFP.

" There is a high risk of clashes with police stationed near the woods ", given "the character ju Some of the opponents "and" the watchword to reinvest "the area, argued the prefect.

" We are scandalized. This is a liberticidal order, "said Juliette Geoffroy, spokesman for the Collective Against the Burial of Radioactive Waste (Cedra), adding that the call for the rally launched by the opponents was" maintained. "

The site de Bure was chosen in 1998 to house an underground laboratory that will prepare for the burial 500 m underground of the most radioactive or long-lived nuclear waste in the French park.

About 221 hectares, the wood Lejuc and its surroundings have been selected by the National Agency for the Management of Radioactive Waste (Andra) for the installation of aeration chimneys of the laboratory.

Andra has planned to carry out exploratory drilling in the forest to collect data before filing a request for official authorization to create the site, planned for 2019.

Since the project's launch, the opposition protests have multiplied and Legal remedies have been filed to prevent the commencement of work. In August, clashes had left six injured among the opposition and two among the gendarmes.

To prevent the disappearance of Lake Chad, an old controversial project exhumed

Avoiding the disappearance of Lake Chad: the urgency is very real, and to face it, experts gathered at his bedside exhumed Transaqua, a megaproject imagined in the 80s and controversial, which consists of filling the immense Dried oasis

The idea, particularly ambitious, is to dig a 2.600 km canal from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), then across the Central African Republic, to the freshwater lake.

Transaqua has been for the last three days at the heart of a conference organized by the Nigerian government and Unesco, which brought together dozens of experts and diplomats in Abuja.

Lake Chad – Straddling Cameroon, Niger , Nigeria and Chad – has for some years been synonymous with Boko Haram, whose jihadist insurgency ravaged the region.

But climate change and the very poor management of water resources have caused a considerable decline. The lake has lost 90% of its surface area in 40 years.

The 40 million people living around and on the lake are among the poorest in the world, the UN estimates that a quarter of them need

The jihadi group took advantage of this vulnerability to recruit thousands of farmers and fishermen cut off from their livelihoods and set up rear bases on the islands of the lake.

– ' Unacceptable '-

 Fishermen prepare their nets on Lake Chad on March 30, 2015, near the village of Guite, Chad. (AFP / Archives - PHILIPPE DESMAZES)

Fishermen prepare their nets on Lake Chad on March 30, 2015, near the village of Guite, Chad. (AFP / Archives – PHILIPPE DESMAZES)

The Transaqua project, devised in 1982 by the Italian consulting and engineering firm Bonifica, involves immense technical and financial challenges, and never came into being. [19659002ButthearrivalofaChinesepartnerthePowerConstructionCorporationofChina(PowerChina)whichsignedanagreementin2017withthecompanybehindtheprojecthasrecentlyrevivedhopesandcriticismaroundtheproject

For its supporters, Transaqua is the only way to cope with the current humanitarian and environmental crisis.

"The transfer of water between the different basins (hydrographic) is not an option but a necessity" said Sanusi Abdullahi, executive secretary of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, which oversees the use of water and natural resources.

"We are faced with the possibility that Lake Chad will disappear and it would be catastrophic for the whole the African continent. "

Little information has filtered out about the agreement that binds the Italian firm today to the giant PowerChina, except that the latter was commissioned to conduct a feasibility study.

" We We are working on projects here and we want to take on social responsibility, "PowerChina engineer Ziping Huang said.

– Duty of Cooperation –

But the project, which by one estimate could cost up to $ 14 billion dollars (11.5 billion euros), raises strong resistance in Kinshasa.

The transfer of Congolese waters to Lake Chad is "unacceptable", responded to the phone the senator of an opposition party, Modeste Mutinga, author of the book "The water war at the door of the DRC." ​​

This would amount to "disrupting the flow of the Congo River with consequences for ecosystems in the DRC," he explained. AFP. "We must not seek to solve a problem in a corner and create here in DR Congo."

Same reaction in the MP for the majority Bavon N'Sa Mputu Elima, former Minister of the Environment, for whom "We must solve the problems in the Lake Chad Basin: the misuse of water by Chadian farmers, increase the water quality of the rivers that feed this lake with water by the maintenance of the banks."

 A Chadian police boat patrols Lake Chad, straddling Cameroon, Niger, Nigeria and Chad on January 25, 2015. (AFP / Archives - SIA KAMBOU)

A Chadian police patrol boat on Lake Chad, straddling Cameroon, Niger, Nigeria and Chad, on January 25, 2015. (AFP / Archives – SIA KAMBOU)

The technical and security challenges involved in a project like Transaqua are also discouraging. The gigantic canal should cross several countries with changing geography and entangled in chronic instability.

In addition to the Boko Haram fighters established around Lake Chad, the Central African Republic, in particular, is devastated by years of war and the abuses of groups armed forces that control vast areas.

And even if time is running out at the rate at which the waters of the lake are disappearing, Ziping Huang, of PowerChina, recognizes that launching such a project with the security situation that prevails today in the The region is "beyond the imagination of our company."

Remains another difficulty: to co-operate the four countries bordering the lake. "These countries must cooperate if they want to face these transnational risks, there is simply no other way to do it," said Florian Krampe, of the Institute's climate change and risk program. Stockholm Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)

"The question is, are the institutions ready?"