Author:Shahin, Mariam

Mariam Shahin reports from Amman on the water crisis which forced the entire government to resign.

It has been an unusually hot summer in Jordan, with average temperatures up by about five degrees for most of July and August. The King was away in America receiving chemotherapy treatment for lymphoma; the slow death of the peace process continued and the war against Osama Bin Laden and company overshadowed Jordanian interest in Bill Clinton's love life. But nothing seemed so pressing for the people of West Amman as the first serious water crisis in memory.

Water distribution to the wealthy and influential districts of the Jordanian capital (Western Amman) was both smelly and scarce as of mid July. "Israel has nothing to do with it," confirmed the first public announcement made by Minister of Water and Irrigation, Dr. Munther Haddadin. Like everything else the minister said, before he resigned in early August, the statement had some truth to it, although it was far from 100 per cent accurate.

At the hub of the problem was the Zai Water Treatment Plant (ZWTP) which supplies 40 per cent of Amman's water needs. The elderly plant was incapable of handling the overload of incoming algae and as a result the water supply to large parts of the capital came out of the taps smelling foul and looking murky.

Haddadin initially blamed the problem on the "the weather" and then changed his mind and said it was due to operational and human errors at ZWTP. Despite Dr. Haddadin's heated denials that "Israel had nothing to do with it", Israel had quite a lot to do with it.

In accordance with the 1994 peace accords between Israel and Jordan, Israel is committed to channelling 60 million cubic meters of water a year to Jordan, as of 1997.

This is to offset the relative excessive use by Israelis of water resources, which should be shared equitably by all countries in the region. However, Israel draws excessively from the River Jordan, the Yarmouk, as well as from the Litani and Hisbani rivers in South Lebanon, while both Jordan and the Palestinian self rule areas, as well as those still under Israeli occupation, use only a fraction of the water used by Israel on a per capita basis.

However, while Palestinian water resources are almost entirely controlled by Israel, Jordan still has partial access to many of its water resources, including Yarmouk River resources and thousands of private wells.

The agreement between the Jordanians and the Israelis clearly states...

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