Sunday, June 28, 2009

World Bank to Fund Dead Sea-Red Sea Canal Test Project

By David Shamah (

Dead Sea The World Bank has agreed to fund a pilot program of what could turn out to be one of the most ambitious water projects in the world – the Dead Sea Canal Project, which would see the construction of waterworks 112 miles in length, connecting the Red Sea and Dead Sea.

The project would help replenish the Dead Sea, which is in danger of major ecological damage, according to many scientists, as well as provide a new source of fresh water for the region, with large desalination plants treating water that would be provided for Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.

The deal for the pilot project, which would see the construction of a pipeline between the two bodies of water, was closed Friday between Regional Development Minister Silvan Shalom and World Bank President Robert Zoellick. The pipeline, to be built by 2011, will function as a study to decide the feasibility of the project.

Besides helping to replenish the Dead Sea, the project could also ease energy costs for participants. The Dead Sea, the lowest spot on earth, is 400 meters below the Red Sea, and the drop in altitude as the water flows could be used to generate hydroelectric power. The water would then be treated in a companion desalination plant, making it fit for agricultural or industrial use and easing the strain on fresh water resources in the region.

Eventually, the full project could see as much as 1.8 billion cubic meters of water pumped through the system. One billion cubic meters would be pumped into the Dead Sea, and the rest would be treated at a desalination plant, to be split between Israel, Jordan and the PA. The project has been much discussed for decades – it was first proposed by the British in the 1880s, according to historians.

According to the World Bank, the desalination plant attached to the project would be the biggest in the world, with a final bill of around $7 billion. The pilot project, which the World Bank has agreed to fund, will cost around $15 million. Shalom is working on developing funding for the full project, from both the World Bank and countries around the world. Speaking to reporters, Shalom said that the initial funding was "a dramatic, important move that can lead to a breakthrough. This project has been delayed for years. We see it as a staple for financial peace."

Source: Israel National News

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