The Promised Land of Thirst

   Jordan; a country with an area of  89,342km2 , which is 90% desert, and is the 4th poorest country on the planet when it comes to water. Its...

   Jordan; a country with an area of  89,342km2 , which is 90% desert, and is the 4th poorest country on the planet when it comes to water. Its people have an ingenious expertise in how to collect, conserve and use the smallest drop of water. Water availability has grown to become one of the most stressful challenges faced by Jordan.

   The basin of the valley of Jordan, which is located 200m below sea level, represents the main natural source of water. In the west bank, the river Jordan shares a border full of conflict with the states of Israel and Syria which remains unresolved. Today the river Jordan is no more than a creek invaded by grass.

  Farmers acknowledge that the amount of rain has decreased and that is why they are unable to cultivate land as they used to in the past. They claim that rain comes later and in less quantities. In the valley of Jordan, farms depend on irrigation from the King Abdallah canal which is funded by the JVA (Jordan Valley Authority). The Yarmouk River is the main source of the river Jordan. Agriculture consumed 60% of water, but that has reduced now.  Today most of the water is directed towards the capital, Amman, to cover domestic water requirements, which is also becoming a challenge due to the high influx and rapid increase in the population as a result of the turbulence in the countries surrounding Jordan.

  After 1948, Israel diverted the sources of river Jordan after failing in negotiation for an equal portion of water with the Arab League. Water is a crucial asset required for living, it is unfair that Israel obtains most of the water source. In 1957, Jordan built the King Abdallah canal from the source (Yarmouk river), after which a dam was built, this brought up the triggering of the 6 day war by Israel to seize the main water towers at the regions water natural resources like the west bank.  It is therefore noticeable that Israel has been interfering with whatever adaptive methods Jordan has come up with.  The dam has a limit of 3.8m3 but since 1993 its limit has not been reached. The rainfall has decreased markedly from that time. Since the drought in the 2000’s, the allocation can no longer be met.

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 Lack of enough water has further pushed Jordan to develop more adaptive measures. The “Samra Plant” is a good example where used water is treated and it contributes to 10% of water source in Jordan. It is only suitable for irrigation and not drinking or any domestic use. The aim of treating used water is to substitute used water and not provide extra water. Hence, the “King Talal dam” was built to preserve treated water but this is not enough.

  50% of the population of Jordan lives in Amman, and therefore the city is subjected to overpopulation.  Amman has 2.4 million inhabitants, it increased by 10 folds in the past 50 years. All of the roofs in the city are covered in reservoirs. Nowadays, underground water is being pumped to the city through pipe lines called “DiSi Pipes”, this is another attempt to adapt to the water shortage. However, underground water does not replenish, and so Jordan is condemned to face further shortages in water eventually.

  The Dead Sea continues to decline with no compensation. It decreases by 1m a tide from top and 9cm from the bottom. Therefore, 1.9m per year is lost from the Dead Sea. The continued declination with no compensation leads to a lack of humidity and lack of precipitation. The decline in the level of the dead seas creates underground cavities; the dissolution of the salt provokes collapsing of land, a phenomenon called sink holes, which in turn puts farming lands and its infrastructure in danger. To save the Dead Sea from declining, Jordan again is considering undergoing an adaptive method. A project is being reviewed, where water of the red sea will be pumped up to the mountains, near the Gulf of Aqaba, desalinated and then thrown 600m lower into the dead sea through a canal called Redit canal which is 180km long. However, this will probably inflict on the Gulf of Aqaba and sicken the ecosystem in the long term. It is a limited resource and should be used in a sustainable manner.

  Jordan is also desalinating brackish water to be used in cultivation pointing out a controversial fact; Brockley seeds which are originally from Japan, are produced on the west coast of the U.S and then grown in Jordan (in the Jordan valley), which is then exported to consumers in the UK. The question is – where are all these countries when it comes to supporting Jordan’s water crises and defending it against the inequality in the water share from Israel? It seems ironic that the west is exploiting such a scarce resource for their own benefit, overlooking the challenges faced by Jordan

   Another issue that is faced by Jordan is air pollution that contributes to worsening climate conditions and reduced rainfall. Citizens of Amman have confessed to a massive increase in the number of vehicles in the city within the past 10 years. It is time Jordan seeks a solution regarding alternative eco-friendly transportation as well. Perhaps that will reduce air pollution and assist in increasing rainfall.

     In conclusion, water availability is one of the main and drastic challenges faced by Jordan, with a lot of controversial relationships with the west, and the factor of air pollution and overpopulation. Again acknowledging that climate change is an issue of immense complexity, the solution of which requires tackling from different points of views and equal sacrifices from countries worldwide.

Itlala Ahmed

Itlala is a 24 year old doctor who has great passion towards humanitarian activities. She has worked with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies in Nairobi, Kenya where she was engaged in a mapping process of the health projects that were conducted by the IFRC in Africa. She did her medical internship (postgraduate training) in Jordan. She truly believes that with hardwork, strong will, passion and belief we can make positive changes in the world.
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