Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Jordan's War for Water

 ‘It’s in the Israeli’s interests to stop us exploiting new water reserves. They need us struggling with inadequate resources while they get fat on the water they’ve taken from us over the years. As I told you before, Paul, I mean to take our water back. And as you can imagine, they’re not going to be happy about it.’
Olives, Page 204

The struggle for water resources underpins Olives, a privatisation project is in place and two consortia are bidding to take over the country’s water network. The privatisation is a fiction, of course, although Jordan has undergone a number of highly successful privatisations, not least of which was the privatisation and liberalisation of telecoms in the country, resulting in the most competitive and sophisticated telecommunications market in the Middle East.

Why would you privatise the water network? Because Jordan’s lack of water is compelling and ever-worsening. A massive, and somewhat visionary, project to pipe water from Wadi Rumm up to Amman is underway but it once again depends on tapping known – and finite - natural water resources. The Dead Sea is receding at a rate of up to four feet annually, the huge lake losing something like two billion gallons of water a year as the torpid Jordan and the rivers, streams and rills that feed it upstream are diverted to meet the needs of the increasing populations of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Israel.

The Dead Sea problem alone has triggered enormous efforts to find some way of remediating the damage – quite apart from environmental impacts, a significant tourism industry has grown around the huge saline lake that sits at the world’s lowest point. There’s a lot of talking going on, but they’ve been talking about it for years.

Across the board, Jordan simply doesn’t have enough water – estimates vary as to when the country will hit crisis point.  In reality, the government is acting where it can, but you can only do so much with what nature’s given you.

That’s why the fictional Daoud Dajani’s water scheme in Olives is so divisive. In tapping underground aquifers that feed into Tiberias, Daoud will bring fresh water to Jordan but his proposal will mean Israel’s water would be depleted and turned saline.

Is that an act of terror? Or is Daoud guilty of other acts, driven by his conviction that Israel has ‘taken too much’?

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