" 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
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 ".