Water security: uprooting graft is a good start

Al-Wihda dam. (Photo: Jordan News)
Jordanians will have to struggle with a “critical summer” due to the dearth of rain and the subsequent low dam water storage.

To address this dire situation, a partial solution was to ask Israel to supply the Kingdom with additional 8 million cubic meters of water. After weeks of delay in response, the US administration and other parties intervened to pressure the Israeli premier, Benjamin Netanyahu, to okay the request. The Israeli leader was reportedly acting in a spirit of retaliation amid a row with Jordan.اضافة اعلان

To experience a situation like this should be alarming enough to Jordan, which is on the top of the list of the world’s thirstiest countries. It should force the country to shift to emergency mode, to address the water crisis, whatever it takes, and take greater control of a challenge as vital as water security.

The list of reasons why we should give water security all the attention it needs seems endless: In meagre rain seasons, dams will not supply us with sufficient quantities and there is too much reliance on underground aquifers; we extract twice the rate of water that can be renewed. We can also blame much of the problem on the refugee influx, nature, population increase, water loss, water theft, and others. It is understandable, of course, that some of these factors are beyond planners’ control.

However, we need to start somewhere: Building more dams and increasing the capacity of existing ones; pulling all strings available to execute the Red-Dead canal project, which will include water desalination; an iron-fist policy against water thieves, mostly influential people, to eradicate the phenomenon; better irrigation systems; reaching to the underground sandstone layers, as a former minister suggests; etc. All are solutions that would collectively respond to this strategic challenge that is threatening our very existence.

A good start is to fight corruption in the water sector. This week witnessed the referral of officials from the Ministry of Water and Irrigation to the judiciary for charges of squandering public money on a water project that is good for nothing. Ironically, the funds involved in the case, JD15 million, equal the sum paid to build the largest dam in Jordan, Al-Wihda, in 2007, according to a fact sheet published by the Jordan News Agency, Petra.

A source who served for decades in the public water sector tells me that the most recent case, which was handled by the anti-corruption commission, is only the tip of the iceberg. If the anti-graft agents dig deeper, they would uncover shocking facts. If true, that would explain why the country has failed over these decades to solve a problem that has escalated this summer to the level of a natural disaster, as described by the UNDP.

Because water security is interlaced with every aspect of national security, and because our survival hinges on the availability of strategically sufficient water resources, we need to prioritize and address this challenge head on, starting with prosecuting the corrupt officials that have contributed to cumulative series of failures, including those pertaining to the water sector.

Read more opinions