Jordan welcomes water deal amid fears on refugee, climate crises

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Jordan has signed a soft loan agreement with a European lender to help finance a mega $2.5 billion water-carrier project amid persistent shortages made worse by climate breakdown.

The government agreed to the $213 million loan with the European Investment Bank, which will go towards a total $352 million state contribution to the National Water Carrier Project (Aqaba-Amman Water Desalination and Transport Project).

The EIB loan has coincided with reports that Israel was intending to supply desalinated water to the West Bank, Gaza, and Jordan.

An Israeli radio station recently said that the country’s water authority and Mekorot company would begin pumping desalinated water from the Mediterranean Sea, alongside groundwater, to Lake Tiberias through a newly established pipeline.

The report quoted an official as saying that “Israel would be able to solve its water issues for the next 30 years, including providing Jordan, the West Bank, and Gaza with this resource.”

A Jordanian official said that the kingdom had “received nothing official from Israel on that.”

The source, who requested anonymity, said: “Israel usually pumps water into Jordan, under the peace deal, from Lake Tiberias and there is nothing special in that. But it would probably be the first time if Israel sends desalinated water from the Mediterranean.”

Described as the “largest infrastructure project” in Jordan’s history, the National Water Carrier Project will provide about 300 million cubic meters of desalinated water annually, conveyed from the port city of Aqaba on the Red Sea northward to the densely populated capital Amman and other cities.

Amman is described as one of the fastest growing cities in the world, with a rapidly increasing population due to refugee influx from crisis-hit neighboring countries.

According to official figures, the population of Amman has increased from 200,000 to four million over the past 50 years due to the refugee influx from Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria between 1948 to 2013.

The UNHCR says Jordan remains the second largest refugee host per capita worldwide with roughly 750,000 refugees of 57 different nationalities.—AFP