May 3, 2010

Famed Jordan River Under Threat

The once-famed, now heavily polluted Jordan River could cease to exist in 2011, according to a report released Monday by the environmental group Friends of the Earth, Middle East (FoEME).

"Diversion of over 90-percent of its fresh water, in addition to discharge of large quantities of untreated sewage, threatens to irreversibly damage the River Valley," the FoEME's official website says. "Israel, Jordan and Syria have all diverted its upstream waters for domestic and agricultural uses, leaving precious little fresh water for the river and its once thriving ecosystem."

Representatives from the FoEME, a group of conservationists from Israel, Jordan, and the West Bank, were scheduled to present their findings in Amman today.

According to the AFP, their report notes that the Jordan "has been reduced to a trickle south of the Sea of Galilee, devastated by overexploitation, pollution and lack of regional management" and that "the remaining flow consists primarily of sewage, fish pond water, agricultural run-off and saline water."

The famed river is significant for people of many cultures and faiths, according to the FoEME website. It is the river in which Jesus was said to be baptized. It is mentioned many times in the Old Testament, making it of significance to Jews and Christians alike.

The river is also said to be a holy place for Muslims, as many former companions of the prophet Muhammad were buried near its waters. Furthermore, it boasts a vast array of flora and fauna and is renowned as a crossroads for migrating birds, the FoEME says on their website.

The 135-mile river once had an annual flow of over 45 billion cubic feet, but due to the diversion of clean water and the introduction of raw sewage, its flow is now just one-sixth of its prior levels. That has the river itself on the brink of extinction.

"A new study we commissioned reveals that we have lost at least 50 percent of biodiversity in and around the river due to the near total diversion of fresh water," said Munqeth Mehyar, FoEME's Jordanian director, told Patrick Moser of the AFP on Sunday.


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