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PM warns of further water woes if no solutions found soon

Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh (Photo: Jordan News)
(Photo: Jordan News)
AMMAN — Prime Minister Bisher Khasawneh said that Jordan is bound to suffer from “real thirst unless we rush to implement all possible water solutions," according to Jordan News Agency, Petra.اضافة اعلان

Speaking at Wednesday’s Lower House of Parliament session dedicated to discussing the declaration of intent the Kingdom recently signed with the UAE and Israel to explore the feasibility of a joint energy-for-water project, the prime minister said "the water poverty we have reached is unprecedented and threatens the level and quality of life for current and future generations."

The "declaration of intent is based on two interrelated, simultaneous, and interdependent projects, one of which cannot be implemented without the other, to eventually enable Jordan to obtain an additional 200 million cubic meters of water annually if the two projects prove to be feasible," Khasawneh said, stressing that the national water carrier project, which is expected to provide Amman and regions across the Kingdom with desalinated seawater from the Gulf of Aqaba, is "irreversible" and the government will float the project's tender "very soon".

However, the prime minister said, the desalinated water this project will only enable the Kingdom to maintain the current per capita share of water until 2040, but "will not be sufficient to increase the supply to the agriculture, industry, and tourism sectors that drive employment and growth."

"Therefore, Jordan's need for additional water sources to meet its growing needs and stimulate growth in vital economic sectors is urgent and immediate,” the premier said, stressing that it is imperative “to quickly secure additional water sources".

"Every day we delay implementing strategic and sustainable solutions and projects that provide additional and new quantities of water threatens our present and future generations," stressing that his government "will remain committed to its national duty and will not accept its hesitation to be the cause of Jordanians’ thirst in the future."

Speaking at Wednesday’s Lower House meeting, Minister of Water and Irrigation Mohammad Najjar said that the Kingdom's annual all-use water consumption currently stands at 1.1 billion cubic meters and that by 2040, the Kingdom will need 800 million cubic meters for drinking and municipal use.

The National Water Carrier Project is expected to provide the capital and other parts of the Kingdom with 300–350 million cubic meters of desalinated seawater, said the minister, adding that tender for the project, which will be the Kingdom's largest water venture, will be floated on Thursday and will be presented to three prequalified consortiums.

If proven feasible, the energy-for-water project will help supply the Kingdom with an additional 200 million cubic meters for drinking and for agriculture, Najjar said, adding that the declaration of intent does not have legal or financial implications for the Kingdom, and will not replace the National Carrier Project under any circumstances.

Meanwhile, official figures issued by the General Budget Department show no funds allocated to the National Water Carrier Project in the 2022 budget, according to Ammon News, which Ministry of Water and Irrigation Spokesperson Omar Salameh attributed to the fact that the project is a build-operate-transfer endeavor whereby the entity responsible for the project will implement it based on the plans and studies prepared by the ministry and will sell water to the ministry according to a specific mechanism, such as the Disi Water Transfer Project.

Salameh said that the cost of the project, which will be completed at the end of 2022, is estimated at JD2.2 billion. Water will start being supplied in 2027 and the project will be financed through grants, loans, and government assistance.

The ministry announced that the specialized technical teams had completed all documents related to the  Aqaba-Amman Water Desalination and Conveyance Project and all the documents pertaining to the project will be sent Wednesday to the five coalitions that had qualified to submit financial and technical bids.

The project is expected to start supplying all regions of the Kingdom with their water needs during 2027.

In a related development, the 2021 Global Water and Sanitation Security Partnership (GWSP) report listed Jordan among six countries where water is considered one of the greatest risks to sustainable development and political stability, Al-Ghad News reported.

The report, started in 2017 and published recently by the World Bank, identified the most important challenges facing the six countries in the region, namely Syria, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey, which have a high population, rapid growth in urbanization, and agriculture that consumes water, saying that all these factors represent a tremendous pressure on scarce water and available resources in the region, which has made water one of the biggest threats to sustainable development and political stability.

The most prominent challenge in the region is that 75 percent of the annual volume of surface water originates from outside the countries, the report said, criticizing the lack of sharing of water between countries and warning of the dangers of a drop in the groundwater level due to over-extraction.

The report stressed the need for enhancing regional cooperation to improve water security in the future and the fact that global partnership supports countries to understand and address their water security challenges, from the safety of dams to water storage.

The GWSP has continued to provide support to governments as they face a triple crisis: achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, and tackling the impacts of climate change, in addition to making connections across sectors and providing a comprehensive set of solutions.

As the effects of climate change intensify and the world fights the long-term impact of the global pandemic, the report said that progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals will be delayed till 2030.

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