Israel, Jordan ink agreement at COP27 to clean polluted Jordan River

Israel, Jordan ink agreement at COP27 to clean polluted Jordan River
Israel and Jordan have agreed to clean up the polluted Jordan river, in a Memorandum of Understanding inked at the COP27 summit in Egypt.
2 min read
17 November, 2022
Cleaning up the river can offer jobs in tourism, according to civil society groups [Getty]

Israel and Jordan agreed Thursday at a UN climate meeting in Egypt to clean up the polluted Jordan river, an essential waterway suffering under decades of pollution and drought, despite opposition from many Jordanians.

The Memorandum of Understanding inked at the COP27 stresses the need to rehabilitate the river system which, experts say, has lost roughly half of its biodiversity.

Israel's Environmental Protection Minister, Tamar Zandberg, called the pact "an expression of the close relationship... between the two countries".

"Cleaning up the hazards, restoring the flow of water and strengthening the natural ecosystems of the Jordan River will ... help us prepare for the climate crisis."

Jordanian activists have criticised any deal between the two states, who share official diplomatic ties despite widespread opposition.

They see water cooperation and environmental projects as key mechanisms used by Israel to boost normalisation with Arab countries.

Jordan's Minister of Water and Irrigation Mohammed al-Najjar voiced hope the accord would improve livelihoods and provide "more water for residents on both banks of the Jordan River, including the Palestinians," according to a statement on the official Petra news agency.

Despite the ties, the two countries have often had fraught relations, especially over Israeli policies towards the Palestinians - tensions that have hindered environmental cooperation.

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EcoPeace Middle East - a civil society group that works to promote environmental cooperation between Jordan, Israel and the Palestinians - praised the deal, saying that "Jordan River rehabilitation is a critical climate adaptation".

A cleaned-up river can also offer jobs in tourism and host pilgrimages as the river is "holy to half of humanity", an EcoPeace statement said. Christians believe Jesus was baptised on the Jordan River's banks.

Jordan is one of the world's most water-deficient countries, suffering from extreme droughts, and water cooperation with Israel long pre-dates the 1994 peace deal between them.