Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian Mayors to plunge into Holy River

In a rare act of solidarity and unity for the Middle East, Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian Mayors will be jumping into the Jordan River as part of a campaign to help clean up the holy water.

The event will be taking place on July 10th at the Yardenit site - the last short stretch of the Jordan where clean water still flows.

Fifty years ago, some 1.3 billion cubic metres of clean water flowed through the lower Jordan each year. Today, a mere dribble of 50 to 100 million cubic metres flows each year, and most of that either sewage or diverted saline water (see related story).

Over-extraction, dams and pumping stations have diverted almost 90% of the river's water away, leaving large areas facing the threat of drying up altogether during the summer. Conservation groups have called for the River to be placed on UNESCO's World Heritage List.

Now, the Big Jump event, organised by Friends of the Earth Middle East, seeks to highlight this problem by bringing together senior figures from the affected areas.

"If we need to literally jump into the water in order to bring government attention to the sorry state of the Jordan River then we will do it," said Gidon Bromberg, the Israeli director of Friends of the earth Middle East.

"The local communities as represented by the mayors are with us in the fight to make the respective water authorities have to stop treating the Jordan River as a sewage channel."

The event also seeks to highlight the similarities with European efforts to rehabilitate the Rhine River after the Second World War. The Rhine was also once a river dividing countries at war and very polluted. Today, it borders peaceful countries and is relatively clean.

"The European experience can be applied to the Middle East as our rivers too were once war zones and heavily polluted," said Roberto Epple, director of European River's Network and the founder of the European Big Jump which began in 1995.

"It's events like these to be held on the Jordan that can force decision makers to wake up."

By David Hopkins



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