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AMMAN: Jordan has signed a loan agreement with a European lender to help finance a $2.5 billion water transport mega project amid persistent shortages compounded by a worsening climate.
The government has accepted the $213 million loan with the European Investment Bank, which will go toward a total state contribution of $352 million to the National Water Transport Project (Water Desalination and Transport Project). Aqaba-Amman water).
The EIB loan coincided with reports that Israel intended to supply desalinated water to the West Bank, Gaza and Jordan.
An Israeli radio station recently said that the country’s water authority and the Mekorot company would start pumping desalinated water from the Mediterranean Sea, as well as groundwater, to Lake Tiberias through a newly established pipeline. .
The report quotes an official as saying that “Israel would be able to solve its water problems for the next 30 years, including by providing this resource to Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza.”
A Jordanian official said the kingdom had “not received anything official from Israel on this.”
The source, who requested anonymity, said: “Israel usually pumps water into Jordan, as part of the peace agreement, from Lake Tiberias and there is nothing special about it. that. But it would probably be the first time that Israel has sent desalinated water from the Mediterranean.
Described as the “largest infrastructure project” in Jordan’s history, the national water transport project will supply around 300 million cubic meters of desalinated water per year, transported from the port city of Aqaba to the Red Sea north to the densely populated capital Amman and other cities. .
Amman is described as one of the fastest growing cities in the world, with a rapidly increasing population due to the influx of refugees from neighboring crisis-hit countries.
According to official figures, Amman’s population has fallen from 200,000 to four million over the past 50 years due to the influx of refugees from Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria between 1948 and 2013.
UNHCR says Jordan remains the second largest host of refugees per capita in the world with around 750,000 refugees from 57 different nationalities.
But official figures indicate that around 1.3 million Syrian refugees live in resource-poor Jordan, the majority of them living outside refugee camps.
The government has stated that “the dramatic increase in the rate of population growth and the impact of the refugee crisis have aggravated Jordan’s water problems and placed it below the water poverty line.
According to official estimates, Jordan’s annual water resources were around 90 cubic meters per person, well below the international threshold of 500 cubic meters per person.
Jordan said the national water carrier project would be based on the “build-operate-transfer system” and be ready by 2027.
The project, according to the water ministry, will include a seawater abstraction system, a desalination plant based on the southern shore of Aqaba, pumping stations and reservoirs, and a 450 km pipeline.
Jordan is ranked as the second most water-scarce country in the world. The total population of Jordan was estimated at 11.1 million people in 2021 with a growth rate of 1.23%, according to official figures.
In October last year, Jordan announced that it had bought an additional 50 million cubic meters of water from Israel outside the framework of the 1994 peace agreement and what it stipulates in terms of amounts of water.
Under the 1994 Wadi Araba peace treaty, Israel pledged to supply Jordan with 55 million cubic meters of water per year.
In November last year, Jordan, Israel and the United Arab Emirates signed a declaration of intent to begin deliberations on the feasibility of an energy-for-water project.
The Jordanian government, which has been criticized in its country by parliament, political parties and other civic forces for signing the agreement, has said that Jordan should receive 200 million cubic meters of water per year in the framework of the project.
International media reported that a huge solar power farm would be built in the Jordanian desert as part of a clean energy generation project that would be sold to Israel in exchange for desalinated water.
The EIB loan was part of the European lender’s pledge at a donors’ conference in March this year, according to a government statement, where a total of $1.83 billion was pledged in the form of grants and loans.