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May. 11 2010 - 11:54 am | 589 views | 0 recommendations | 4 comments

Jordan River to run dry in 2011

The Jordan River may run dry next year. If action is not taken to divert water back into the river and to process the massive amounts of raw sewage that currently flow into the Jordan, the lower Jordan is expected to stop flowing by the end of 2011.

Visitors to Israel, the West Bank, Syria and Jordan are often surprised by the fact that the Jordan River is more of a trickle than a mighty river. As of 2010, it is easy to literally walk across many points in the Jordan. That is how shallow the river is.

And the Jordan is now endangered. Israel, Jordan and Syria are all diverting water from the Jordan River and dumping raw sewage into the river. In the past fifty years, the river’s annual flow has dropped from more than 1.3 billion cubic meters per year to less than 30 million cubic meters. Sewage makes up a significant portion of the volume of the Jordan River in 2010.

Raw sewage from the homes of 250,000 Jordanians, 60,000 Palestinians and 30,000 Israelis empties into the Jordan through a combination of direct dumping and contamination from dumping in nearby wadis and wells.

Christian pilgrims who travel to the Jordan for baptism are literally bathing in shit.

Someone should tell Rupert Murdoch.

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In order to publicize the Jordan Valley’s fragile ecosystem and the very real risk of the river running dry, international NGO Friends of the Earth Middle East held a media junket where journalists working in Israel, the West Bank and Jordan were given a bus tour of the river valley. Here’s what came out of the tour:

Al Jazeera saw a pilgrim bathing in a mix of fecal matter and agricultural run-off:

One Russian-speaking pilgrim put on a white cloth and calmly entered the water. Bromberg, who had been explaining to us how and why the river turned from gushing rapids into a fetid stream, stopped mid-sentence as we all watched in horror.Once 1.3 billion metric cubes flowed annually through the Jordan River. It was 25 metres wide, flanked by willow trees and poplars and filled with fish that could be eaten.As we would see later on our bus trip, the water of the Jordan River is no longer coming from the Sea of Galilee but from the sewage, the contaminated agricultural run-off and saline water that was dumped into it.

Agence France-Presse noted how it’s possible to walk across the Jordan:

The river — which runs 217 kilometers (135 miles) from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea — and its tributaries are shared by Israel, Jordan, Syria and the West Bank. In 1847, a U.S. naval officer who led an expedition along the river described navigating down cascading rapids and waterfalls. Today the Jordan is a brackish stream barely a few meters (yards) wide.

The Huffington Post notes what will happen to that poor pilgrim:

How can we tell people who have come so far for this spiritual experience not to enter the Jordan River? Bromberg asks. Even though the signs clearly say do not enter, they jump in. “He’ll likely get sick; develop a rash.”


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  1. collapse expand

    I feel bad about the river, but I don’t really care how many rich Christians get E coli, and frankly I wish we could make Murdoch bathe there every day.

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    About Me

    A New York-based journalist and blogger who has spent extensive time in the Middle East and is currently working on an MA thesis in Middle Eastern Studies. My thesis focuses on the 2009 Iranian election demonstrations and their coverage in the international media.

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    Contributor Since: July 2009
    Location:New York NY