Jordan has started a tender for the first construction phase of a pipeline from the Red Sea to the rapidly drying Dead Sea, bringing a long-discussed project to combat water shortage in the region closer to fruition.
The Jordanian government has put out the first construction phase of a pipeline connecting the Red Sea to the Dead Sea to tender, after decades of discussion on the project's ability to boost water supply in the region.
This phase of the project involves building the first pipe to transfer 300 million cubic meters of water from the Gulf of Aqaba on the Red Sea to the Dead Sea on the Jordanian side.
Some of the Red Sea water would be used to help refill the Dead Sea - the lowest and saltiest sea in the world. The rest of the water would be desalinated and shared with neighbours Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
As such, the first construction phase also includes building desalination facilities able to process 65 to 85 million cubic meters annually.
An expensive project
Costs of this initial building effort are expected to go up to $900 million (849 million euros), according to the country's water and irrigation ministry. The World Bank expects total costs of the 180 kilometer to reach $10 billion.
The ministry is //www.mwi.gov.jo/sites/en-us/Documents/RSDS%20PQ%20Announcement.pdf accepting prequalification documents from private companies and consortiums interested in the project until March 30, 2016.
Race to save drying Dead Sea
Jordan hopes that the canal linking the two seas will help rehabilitate the Dead Sea, which experts warn may dry out by 2050 if it continues to sink by a meter every year, as it has. Its degradation started in the 1960s, when Israel, Jordan and Syria started to divert water from the Jordan River, the main source for the Dead Sea.
Diverting water from the Jordan River has squeezed off the Dead Sea's main source
At the same time, desalinated water from the Red Sea is expected to help secure the water supply. Water rationing is a way of life in Jordan, where more than 90 percent of the land is made up of desert.
Refugee crisis makes solving shortages more urgent
But Jordan's 7-million strong population is also growing, as hundreds of thousands of refugees from its war-torn neighbor Syria - exacerbating shortages.
Proponents of the project also point to the potential of resource-sharing for peace building in the region, especially between Jordan and Israel, who have a history of strained relations.
Environmental activists unconvinced
But many, especially environmental activists, are unconvinced the benefits of building the pipeline outweigh the possible damage. Fears include the pipes bursting and having groundwater contaminated with sea water or harm to the Dead Sea's ecosystem.
Still, the World Bank has concluded that based on 5174617,00.html feasibility studies it has conducted, building the pipeline is both technically and environmentally viable.