Who Owns the Water?
|September 29, 2002||Posted by Staff under Progress Report, The Progress Report|
Who Owns the Water?
Middle East Water Conflicts Escalate
How should water rights be settled? Threats and fights are the worst way; negotiation and recognition of water as a common resource is best.
Here are some news excerpts from the organization Americans for Peace Now.
Water War Brewing?
From a recent article in Yedioth Ahronoth:
- In the past number of months, the Lebanese government has begun construction on a water-pumping project near the village of Adeisa, the object of which is to pump 25% of the water that flows in the Wazzani, which is one of the tributaries of the Hasbani. This means that if these works are not stopped there are good chances that the waters of the Hasbani next summer will be turbid, and that Israel will lose tens of millions of cubic meters of fresh water every year.
The Lebanese began with this pumping business some two years ago with a small, four-inch pipe. At the time the Israelis ranted and raved, but quickly calmed down because the amounts of water being pumped were small. The pipe then grew to eight inches, and now work is underway to expand the project so as to enable the introduction of a 20-inch pipe. If this work is not stopped immediately, the pumping will begin next summer. And no one can guarantee that they wont begin to use even bigger pipes in the future. A blow to the State of Israels fresh water supply — that is a causus belli. The issue was raised in discussions in the Prime Minsiters Office, and a number of meetings were held by the Defense Ministry. For the time being Israel has been applying pressure on the Lebanese government, which is responsible for diverting the water. But if that does not help and this project is not stopped, then the seeds of war are being planted there right now.
In response to the Yedioth Ahronoth article cited above, the Lebanese government expressed its determination to continue pumping water from the Wazzani Springs to villages near the border with Israel. Speaker Nabih Berri rejected an Israeli warning to stop pumping water from the springs, which feed the Hasbani River flowing from the South into northern Israel. In less than 25 days, a newly arrived pump will begin sucking up 10,000 cubic meters of water a day from the Wazzani Springs and channeling it to several villages in the central sector of the border district. The final stage of the project involves damming the Hasbani River with rocks to create a 3-meter-deep pool from where the water will be drawn. A sprawling pile of boulders already stretches most of the way across the river, leaving a 2-meter gap for the Hasbani to pour through. The Wazzani Springs bubble up from the western bank of the river and feed straight into it. The prospect of a dam being built across the Hasbani is sure to further arouse Israels suspicions about the extent of the project.
But Ali Wehbe, the owner of the construction firm working on the project, said a diversionary channel would be excavated on the eastern bank for a few meters to allow the river to bypass the dam and pool and continue flowing south to Israel. However, theres a catch. For over two decades, Israel has been quietly pumping water from the Wazzani Springs, across the Hasbani River and up the steep eastern bank to supply Syrian residents of the Israeli-controlled village of Ghajar. The Israelis have been permitted to continue pumping the water, despite the twin pumps being on Lebanese territory and easily accessible. Both pumps are only 20 meters from where the new pipe is being installed. This arrangement could be drawing to a close because the new dam will dry up the source of water used by the Israeli pumps. Once the new pump is operating, the amount of water that will be taken from the river will still be far short of the 35 million cubic meters a year allocated to Lebanon in the 1955 Johnston Agreement, an accord that is still the only official regional arrangement on water sharing for the Jordan River and its tributaries, of which the Hasbani is one.
Who owns the water in the Middle East? What would be a fair way to allocate it for the benefit of all? Tell The Progress Report!