An ambitious plan to build a pipeline to carry water from the Red Sea to the shrinking Dead Sea lurched forward this month, after the World Bank held hearings to gather public comments on the proposal. But environmentalists charge that alternative plans to save the Dead Sea would be cheaper, more flexible and would have less impact on the region’s ecosystems.
If the project proceeds, a 180-kilometer buried pipeline will carry up to 2 billion cubic meters (m3) of sea water per year from the Gulf of Aqaba on the Red Sea through Jordanian territory to the Dead Sea.
The Dead Sea is world’s lowest inland area. Proposals have been put forward to set up the pipeline so that the downward flow of the water goes through a hydroelectric plant that would in turn power a desalination plant, providing up to 850 million m3of fresh water per year to the parched region. Brine from the desalination plant would be discharged into the already-saline Dead Sea, replenishing water that is evaporating from the lake at a rate of more than 1 meter per year.
The estimated cost of the project would be at least US$10 billion, of which about $2 billion would be for facilities that would pump the desalinated water from the Dead Sea towards Amman — a distance of 200 kilometers, and a difference in altitude of 1,000 meters.