Jordan and Israel join forces to save biblical river

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The Independent Online

The river where tradition has it Jesus was baptised has lost 97 per cent of its water supply and is now little more than a sewage canal, says the international environmental group, Friends of the Earth (FoE).

Two mayors from Israel and one from Jordan met at the Jordan yesterday, Earth Day, to call attention to the plight of a waterway which is a holy site for Christians, Jews and Muslims.

Gidon Bromberg, the Israeli director of the Friends of the Earth Middle East, said: "Moses looked across this river to the Promised Land. Companions of the Prophet Mohamed were buried along this river."

But today, the lower Jordan, which flows south from the Sea of Galilee for about 60 miles before entering the Dead Sea, is heavily polluted by untreated sewage and carries only 3 per cent of its original water volume, experts said. Israeli environment ministry officials were unavailable for comment.

Water diversion projects stop water from flowing into the Jordan from the Sea of Galilee, its main source, which supplies irrigation for much of northern Israel and drinking water for the whole country.

The river's second-largest source is Jordan's Yarmouk river. Dams have severely reduced the flow, and the building of a new dam threatens to stop it. Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994 that includes a water-sharing plan.

Mr Bromberg said FoE hoped to spur Israel and Jordan to place the Jordan on Unesco's World Heritage list to help protect it from further degradation.

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