Photo via Abouid via Flickr CC
Even the most famous and admired places aren't immune to the problems of abuse and pollution - the Jordan River being a prime example as it's expected to run dry by 2011 due to overexploitation, pollution and lack of regional management, according to Friends of the Earth, Middle East. Over 90% of the river's water has been diverted by Israel, Syria and Jordan, and what's left is an unappealing mix of sewage, saline water, and run-off from cropland. And by the end of 2011, there won't even be that left. It would be a major piece of history lost if drastic measures aren't taken to restore the river. Planet Save writes, "Today the river has been diverted, dammed and sourced too many times. Raw sewage gushes into the river at points leaving it brackish and horrible. Despite this, however, thousands of pilgrims still make the journey each year to step into the river that is believed to be the place where Jesus Christ was baptized by John the Baptist." But there won't be a place to visit in the very near future, other than a dry bed, if a few things don't radically change.
According to FoEME, the river once had a flow rate of of 1.3 billion cubic metres a year, but now it trickles at less than 100 million cubic metres. The organization says that a rush of fresh water released into the river could save it.
"A new study we commissioned reveals that we have lost at least 50 percent of biodiversity in and around the river due to the near total diversion of fresh water, and that some 400 million cubic metres of water annually are urgently needed to be returned to the river to bring it back to life," said Munqeth Mehyar, FoEME's Jordanian director.
Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the river, however is simply educating people that there's a major problem. FoEME reports that, "Since much of the river is a closed military zone and off limits to the public, most people simply do not know that the river is drying up." Not only is it historically significant but the river valley is also one of the world's most important crossroads for migratory birds, with 500 million birds migrating twice a year.
Major changes are needed, from water management to sewage treatment plans, if the river is expected to survive beyond the next 18 months. FoEME have devised a workout plan, but it's up to many different authorities to adopt the river-saving strategies.