Monday, 16 April 2012

The Jordanian Water Privatisation

Aisha’s soft touch was a little thrill as I helped her off the conference shuttle bus, the exhaust fumes making me squint up at her as the warm light caught her fine features. It was a hot Dead Sea day and I shifted uncomfortably in the unfamiliar confines of a suit. She glanced at me as her high heels hit tarmac, a flash of white teeth at my discomfiture.
   ‘Come on, let’s get you installed in the press office so I can find Harb and Zahlan.’
   We walked into the King Hussein convention centre, more buses pulling up behind us as conference visitors streamed in from the hotels along the Dead Sea coast and from the public car parks down the road. The keynote speaker, Harb Al Hashemi, Jordanian Minister of Natural Resources by the Grace of God, was also, Aisha told me, going to announce the result of the privatisation. The evaluation committee had reviewed the financial offers of both bidders and made its choice. Harb would reveal all.
Olives, Page 243

The privatisation of Jordan's Water Network in Olives is a fiction, although the critical water shortages Jordan is facing is a very well researched reality. The Israeli 'security wall' does, indeed snake around fertile land and springs, deviating significantly from the '1967 border' by kilometres just to snag a juicy well or spring. In a region where water - the stuff of life - is severely scarce, ensuring a steady supply is existential. Even when that supply comes at the expense of your neighbour or, if you prefer, your 'partner in peace'.

Ariel Sharon did indeed threaten to take Israel to war over the damming of the Litani River and Israel did take control of Lake Tiberias in the 1967 war, securing the massive reservoir. There are underground aquifers leading into Tiberias, a number of earthworks exist today that date back to Roman times, the Qanat Romani of Jordan, mostly concentrated in the North of the country.

But the privatisation is makety-uppity - you can blame it on the fact I was working with the Jordanian Ministry of ICT on a number of privatisation projects at the time I was writing Olives, including the privatisation of Jordan's telecoms sector which stands today as the most competitive in the Middle East -  precisely because of that privatisation programme. And the Ministry of Natural Resources is also, sadly, a fiction.- the water issue belongs fairly and squarely to the Jordanian Ministry of Water and Irrigation which is embarking on a number of schemes almost as breathtaking in scope as Daoud Dajani's in Olives - including the controversial Disi project, which will pump water hundreds of kilometers from Wadi Rumm up to Amman.
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