On November 17th, In Sharm el Sheikh, Israel and Jordan signed an agreement on the rehabilitation and protection of the River Jordan. The Memorandum of Understanding is a declaration of intent to partner in the protection and restoration of the river, which has been significantly degraded following years of drought and the discharge of sewage. The document was signed by the Jordanian Minister of Water and Irrigation, Mohammed al Najer, and the Israeli Minister of Environmental Protection, Tamar Zandberg.
The agreement is a milestone in environmental cooperation between Israel and Jordan. It follows an inter-ministerial decision taken in July this year in Israel to restore a stretch of the southern Jordan basin from the sea of Galilee to the Bezek stream, after which the river becomes the border between Israel and Jordan. The decision includes the improved treatment of sewage, which is currently treated at a basic level before being released into the river, as well as the release of substantially more water from the Sea of Galilee from the current 30 million m³ to a maximum of 70 million m³ and the release of more water into the river.
The agreement on the restoration of the Jordan River builds on the 1994 peace treaty which includes clauses on the protection of the river. The water quality and flow of the river has declined steeply as the result of a number of damming and diversion projects conducted by Israel, Syria and Jordan over the last few decades. This resulted in a flow reduction of 98% and increased concentration of pollutants in the lower section of the river.