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        General Assembly
        Security Council
1 August 1984

Thirty-Ninth session
        Item 77 of the provisional agenda*

1 August 1984



Report of the Secretary-General

1. The present report is submitted in pursuance of General Assembly resolution 38/85 of 15 December 1983 entitled "Israel's decision to build a canal linking the Mediterranean Sea to the Dead Sea". In paragraphs 5 and 6 of the resolution, the Secretary-General was requested "to monitor and assess, on a continuing basis and through a competent expert organ, all aspects - juridical, political, economic, ecological and demographic - of the adverse effects on Jordan and the Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, arising from the implementation of the Israeli decision to construct this canal and to forward the findings of that organ on a regular basis to the General Assembly" and to report to the General Assembly at its thirty-ninth session on the implementation of the resolution.

2. It will be recalled that, pursuant to earlier resolutions of the General Assembly (36/150 and 37/122), United Nations experts visited Israel and Jordan in 1982 and Jordan in 1983. Their reports were annexed to reports of the Secretary-General dated 30 June 1982 (A/37/328-S/15277) and 31 October 1983 (A/38/502).

3. On 29 February 1984, the Under-Secretary-General for Technical Co-operation for Development addressed letters to the Permanent Representatives of Israel and Jordan requesting that their Governments make available to the Secretary-General such information as might be relevant in light of the provisions of resolution 38/85 and provide a small team of experts with access to sites that they might need to visit and arrange the contacts they might require with the officials directly concerned.

4. On 6 March 1984, the Permanent Representative of Jordan replied that his Government would be glad to receive and facilitate the work of the team of experts (see annex II).

5. In a reply dated 8 May 1984, the Permanent Representative of Israel stated that no useful purpose would be served by a visit of the team of experts (see annex III).

6. Accordingly, the experts could not visit Israel the occupied territories. It did, however, visit Jordan from 30 May to 7 June 1984. The report of the team of experts is attached as annex I.



Report of the Team of Experts

1. The essential task of the team of experts was to bring up to date, in the light of the provisions of General Assembly resolution 38/85, the available information on the Israeli project to build a canal linking the Mediterranean Sea to the Dead Sea and its effect on Jordan and the Arab territories occupied since 1967. The project itself has been described in a report prepared in 1982 (A/37/328-S/15277, annex), while other matters, notably juridical aspects, were dealt with in a report prepared in 1983 (A/38/502, annex). In addition, environmental aspects were examined in a study prepared in 1983 under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP/GC.ll/3/Add.4).

2. Since the team of experts was not able to visit Israel and the occupied territories, it had to limit its investigation to Jordan. As a result, the report which follows is based on information made available by the Jordanian authorities. On that basis and bearing in mind the findings already reported to the General Assembly in previous years, the team of experts focused on those areas where new information was most readily available. Those areas were agricultural development, mineral production and recreation and tourism.

3. The team of experts took note, however, of press reports, according to which planning for the project in Israel has reached an advanced stage. a/ According to these reports, some $24 million have been allocated for preparatory work on the project in the period 1983 to 1985. About $4 million of this amount is to be used for building an exploratory tunnel near the Ein Bokek shore of the Dead Sea. This tunnel is to be some 1.4 km in length and 3.5 m in diametre and is to be drilled through to the site of a planned underground power plant. It is expected to have reached completion by the end of 1984, at which time instruments are to be installed to monitor potential geophysical effects, including possible seismic activity.


4. Agriculture accounted for 18 per cent of Jordan's gross national product (GNP) in 1983. b/ By 1986 the Jordan Valley will have developed over 36,650 ha of irrigated farm land out of some 190,290 ha of potential arable farm land. c/ The value of the Jordan Valley's agricultural output in 1982 was worth 56 million Jordanian dinars (JD) ($US 168 million), accounting for nearly 70 per cent of the entire country's production of fruits and vegetables and over 80 per cent of its total agricultural exports. c/

5. From detailed information provided to the team of experts, it appears that the overall impact of inundation from the proposed diversion scheme would be significant, both with respect to existing agricultural development projects currently underway or schemes planned for the future, particularly in the southern and northern regions of the Dead Sea (figure 1). Although the previous reports (A/37/328-S/15277, annex and A/38/502, annex) contained estimates of the extent of agricultural lands that would be inundated by raising the level of the Dead Sea from the present level of -400.5 m MSL to -390.5 m MSL (Mediterranean Sea Level), no estimate was given in these reports of the value of losses within and beyond the inundated areas.

6. The team of experts was provided with detailed feasibility studies prepared for the Jordan valley Authority by international consulting firms in 1979, d/ 1981 e/ and 1983 f/ for the development of lands at both the north and south ends of the Dead Sea. According to these studies, the project for the southern region of the Dead Sea, known as the Mujib and Southern Ghors Irrigation Project, is designed to irrigate 10,420 ha and provide industrial water to the Arab Potash Company. It would cost approximately JD 108.7 million ($US 326 million) by its estimated completion date in 1991. f/ These costs were based on constant 1977 dollars and must be revised upwards to take account of inflation.

7. According to a feasibility study prepared in 1979, d/ the Mujib and Southern Ghors Irrigation Project is to be constructed in three stages, the first two of which are shown in figure 2. Stage I, started in October 1982, would develop 4,060 ha of irrigable land using spring waters and base flows of the nearby wadis. Stage II, which was started in 1983, would develop 4,600 ha of irrigable land and would also supply industrial water to the Arab Potash Company using base flows from the Wadi Mujib and flows of the Wadi Hasa regulated by the Tannour Dam. Stage III would develop 1,760 ha of irrigable land with flows of the Wadi Wala and Wadi Mujib regulated by the Rumeil and Nukheia Dams. The total water requirement for industry and irrigation would be approximately 98.2 x 106 m3 per annum (gross) and 86.5 x 106 M3 per annum (net). The development of 11,580 ha gross (10,420 ha net) g/ in the Mujib would provide 3,860 three-hectare farm units. Each unit is to be divided into six 0.5 ha plots for the production of vegetables (tomatoes, eggplant, hot peppers, green beans, cucumbers, squash, sweet melons, okra, etc.), fodder crops (alfalfa and berseem clover) and fruit crops (citrus and bananas). Returns to land and labor for stages I and II at full production were estimated by the consultants to be JD 34.1 million ($US 102.4 million) on a net area of 8,596 ha of land. These are net returns to land and labor, before payment of water charges. These values were based on constant 1977 dollars and therefore need to be adjusted upwards for inflation. According to the feasibility studies made available by Jordanian authorities, this output was estimated to provide a return of JD 3,970 ($US 11,900) per ha or JD 11,910 ($US 35,700) per farm unit. d/

8. As regards stage II, a later study h/ indicates a total construction cost of WS 175 million with a total annual benefit when full and normal operating conditions are achieved of $US 14.4 million in 1988, rising to $US 78.7 million in 1998. Several different sensitivity analyses (varying by as much as 20 per cent), conducted by consultants hired by the Jordanian Government and made available to the team of experts, gave annual internal rates of return varying from 22.8 per cent to 25 per cent. The total construction cost of stages I and II has been estimated at $US 350 million (in 1983 dollars) with total annual benefits rising from $US 28.9 million in 1988 to $US 157.5 million in 1998. These figures furnish an indication of the direct benefits of the irrigation projects. To this must be added the indirect income-generating effects.

Figure 1.

Irrigation areas adjacent to the Dead Sea in Jordan

(Figure 1 goes here)


Source: Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Jordan Valley Authority, Updated Feasibility Study Report of Mujib and Southern Ghors Irrigation Project, Stage II. Nippon Koei Co. Ltd. Consulting Engineers, Tokyo, Japan, June 1983.
Figure 2.

(Figure 2 goes here)


Source: Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Jordan Valley Authority, Updated Feasibility Study, Report of Mujib and Southern Ghors Irrigation Project, Stage II, Nippon Koei Co. Ltd. Consulting Engineers, Tokyo, Japan, June 1983.

9. The proposed Mediterranean-Dead Sea Canal which is to raise the level of the Dead Sea by some 10 metres from -400.5 m MSL to -390.5 m MSL would directly affect the irrigable lands of the Mujib and Southern Ghors Irrigation Project. Lands below -390.5 m MSL would be flooded by the rising level of the Dead Sea. Lands between -380 and -390.5 m MSL would be directly or indirectly affected by increased salinity and severe drainage problems. There would be salt movement upward by the underlying salt water table and the drains planned for the low-lying areas close to the -390.5 m MSL level would be flooded and would have to be pumped. Lands within two metres of the -390.5 m MSL elevation would be subject to inundation at irregular intervals, depending upon the annual rainfall in the Dead Sea catchment basin. Fluctuations of one metre or more as a result of heavy rains in the region are not uncommon. Lands between the elevations of -370 m MSL and -380 m MSL are unlikely to be directly affected by the rise; however, some of this area is reclaimed marsh land which would give the farmers considerable difficulty in land management if the underlying water table were raised. Besides the effects upon the land itself, the Mujib Conveyor delivering water from the Wadi Mujib and Wadi Heijan would be inundated in places, as the delivery line is at or below the -390 m MSL along the eastern shore of the Dead Sea.

10. Approximately 660 ha of irrigable land are below the -390.5 m MSL elevation level and would be totally inundated and lost to cultivation. About 1940 ha of irrigable land lie at elevations between -380 m MSL and -390.5 m MSL, those of the areas adjacent to the -390.5 m MSL elevation would be rendered useless owing to irregular flooding, lack of drainage, and increased salinity. Other areas above this zone and below the 380 m MSL level would be adversely affected by poor drainage and increased salinity which might eventually lead to their abandonment.

11. The team of experts has estimated the dollar loss in production based upon the 2500 ha that would be affected beginning in 1993 - the completion date for the Mediterranean-Dead Sea Canal - and increasing in its effect for another 10 years with maximum effect in the year 2003, the projected date at which the Dead Sea would be brought to the -390.5 m MSL. Based upon the estimated returns mentioned in paragraph 7, JD 11,910 ($US 35,700) per farm unit on the 660 ha inundated, 220 farm units would be taken out of production with an estimated direct loss of JD 2.6 million ($US 7.9 million) annually. on the remaining 1,940 ha between the -380 m and -390 m MSL 636 farm units would be affected. In respect of 200 of those lying next to the -390.5 m MSL, the annual direct loss is estimated at JD 2.4 million ($US 7.2 million). Hence, the annual loss may range from JD 2.6 million ($US 7.9 million) to some JD 5 million ($US 15 million).

12. Irrigation near the northern shore of the Dead Sea might also be adversely affected. e/ Three hundred ha could be lost to production with an estimated maximum income loss of JD 720,900 ($US 2.2 million) per annum.

13. If irrigation projects were to be fully operative when the full impact of the canal is felt, there might be other adverse effects which are difficult to assess, including the uprooting of up to 3,000 people. d/

14. Less easy to quantify but perhaps more significant would be the possible displacement of the fresh water above the saline waters in the underlying strata around the Dead Sea (see figure 3). i/ Once salt water enters fresh water aquifers, it is usually impossible to displace unless there is a considerable head of fresh water above it. Some of the springs used to irrigate the arable lands at the southern end of the Dead Sea may be disrupted or displaced; hence, the extent of possible future loss is unknown.

15. Indirect benefits due to the development of irrigated land are difficult to evaluate but are nonetheless important. Besides providing income for the farmers living off the land, there would be an infrastructure developed in the communities which supports farm production as well as that developed as a result of the communities themselves being there; the first includes agricultural industries producing fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation equipment, warehousing and banking facilities, etc.; the second encompasses other goods and services provided to the people living in the region.


16. Among the impacts of the raising of the Dead Sea, those relating to Jordanian mineral production would be especially significant. Jordan has constructed a potash plant which, when fully completed will have cost in excess of $US 500 million, and which is to have an ultimate output of 1.2 million tons, the revenues from which would account for at least 50 per cent of its foreign earnings from mineral exports. Reports of previous United Nations missions have drawn attention to potential losses in potash production from the raising of the Dead Sea. In addition to the information presented in 1983 (A/38/502, annex, pp. 11-16), the assessment of the team of experts is summarized as follows.

Figure 3.


17. The total production of potassium chloride (KCL) has now reached 600,000 tons per annum. The solar evaporation system consists of a 72 square kilometre salt pan which is considered to be the nucleus of all operations of salt precipitation leading to potassium chloride production. To this pan, Dead Sea brines of 1.225 specific gravity are pumped at a rate of 12 cubic metres per second. Sodium chloride is precipitated and the brines are concentrated to a specific gravity of 1.28 before they are transferred to the following stage.

18. In a second phase, the carnallite salts are harvested in a slurry form. The system includes two precarnallite pans, the areas of which are 11.35 sq. km and 2.50sq km and three carnallite pans. The role of precarnallite pans is to raise the specific gravity of the brine to reach 1.295 in the first one and 1.300 in the second. In the carnallite pans the evaporation process is finalized by the precipitation of the carnallite salt (KCL Mg C12 6 H20)- When specific gravity reaches 1.335, harvesting operations start and carnallite in a slurry form is pumped to the refinery. Carnallite pan No. 1 (41.5 sq. km) was ready for harvesting in 1982; carnallite pan No. 2 (5.09 sq. km) was ready in 1983; and carnallite pan No. 3 (6.68 sq km) will be ready in 1984/85. In a third phase, mesh salts are refined until the final product, potassium chloride, is produced, with a projected output of 900,000 tons in 1985 and full production of 1.2 million tons in 1986.

19. The potassium and phosphate from the Dead Sea are the only presently known mineral resources of Jordan. Phosphate exports have reached 4.5 million tons, besides 1 million tons of phosphate fertilizer production. The Jordanian Government is considering the expansion and doubling of potassium chloride production, after reaching the present goal of 1.2 million ton production from the Safi area in 1986, by constructing an additional salt pan in the Lisan Peninsula. As mentioned in the 1983 report (A/38/502, annex, para. 28), the Government is also considering the following potassium related projects: optimization of the current capacity, soda ash, magnesium oxide and refractory bricks; bromine and main derivatives, potassium sulphate, compound fertilizers and refined table salt. A contract for the construction of a plant with a production capacity of 30,000 tons of refined salt has been awarded and the work is expected to be completed by the end of 1985. While the feasibility studies concerning the other projects are almost complete, the Government intends to update them in the light of recent price changes.

20. Potash production is in large part dependent upon the density of Dead Sea brine. According to Israeli studies, (A/39/502/Add.1, p. 31) as a result of the inflow of large quantities of Mediterranean sea water, the density of the upper layer of the Dead Sea would decrease at first to 1.13 and then rise again to 1.18 compared with the present density of 1.225. A new mixed upper layer would be created, reaching a depth of 20 m in 20 years and 60 m after 40 to 50 years. In that case, total production in the existing facilities would decrease. If the brine were pumped from deeper layers with greater density, additional and more powerful pumping facilities would be required, including a new brine intake system. The inlet might have to be as much as 40 to 60 m below the surface of the Dead Sea. Even so, the brine might still have a density lower than that encountered in present production.

21. According to the Arab Potash Company, maintaining the Dead Sea level at -401 m MSL is important. Raising it to -390 m MSL may inundate the brine in the salt pan and carnallite pans and may also damage the dikes. Approximately 60 km of dikes would have to be raised 7.3 metres on an average, with a cost at 1984 prices of $US 150 million. The present system is designed with the assumption that the Dead Sea level will continue to recede by 0.5 m per year. Any increase of the Dead Sea level would require the raising of the dikes at a much earlier stage and thus incur unanticipated costs, and would, therefore, reduce the profitability of the operation.

22. The Jordanian authorities consider the mineral resources of the Dead Sea as vital to the economic and social development of Jordan and any impairment of the industry based on them may, therefore, have adverse consequences for the country as a whole.

23. A change in the level of the Dead Sea would affect a number of recreation, tourism and health care facilities which already exist and others that are planned for development. Studies prepared for the Jordan Valley Authority by a group of international consultants k/ emphasize that the Dead Sea shore has considerable potential in each of these respects. The region has a warm climate, which is especially attractive during the winter season, when other parts of Jordan are much cooler. In addition, it possesses water-cure resources. It is within relatively easy reach from Amman, Jordan's major population centre with some 750,000 inhabitants. Jordanian planners expect that with the development of hotel, camping, boating and other facilities the Dead Sea region could attract large numbers of visitors from Jordan and abroad by the year 1990.

24. Recreation and tourist sites already developed and planned for early implementation are shown in figure 4, together with sites relating to health care. The three main recreation and tourist centres are Suweimeh, At the northern end of the Dead Sea, and Zara and Mazra further south. Suweimeh Attracts several hundred families for day visits and week-ends. A small Government-owned rest house has been in operation at the water's edge for some time. An integrated recreation and tourism complex, however, is planned for Suweimeh. Capital costs of development have been estimated at $US 1 million to $US 1.5 million. A rise in the level of the Dead Sea to -390.5 m MSL would cover the projected site of the facility.

25. Zara has natural features, notably topographic relief, vegetation, abundant hot spring waters, as well as the adjacent Dead Sea, which are favorable for recreational and tourism development. It is 110 km from Amman. The construction of three hotels designed to serve an international clientele as well as visitors from the Amman region, condominiums, and parks with an estimated cost of $US 15 million was proposed by the consultants. I/ Based on the consultants' maps, much of the project site would be inundated if the level of the Dead Sea were to be raised to -390.5 m MSL.

26. A complex of hotels, condominiums and water sport facilities has also been proposed for Mazra, on a scale similar to that at Zara. Inspection of topographical maps indicates that raising the level of the Dead Sea to -390.5 MSL would lead to the inundation of most of the project site.

27. Concerns were also expressed by Jordanian officials about health care facilities that are being planned for various locations along the eastern shore of the Dead Sea, taking advantage of the hot springs and the therapeutic qualities of the Dead Sea itself. Plans are in the early stages of formulation, but it is evident that many of the most advantageous sites are located below -390.5 MSL and would, therefore, be flooded if the proposed Canal were built.

Figure 4.

(Figure 4 goes here)



a/ Reports on the digging of an exploratory tunnel have-appeared in Israeli newspapers in recent months, including "The First Meter of the Mediterranean Canal", Uri Binder, Ma’ariv, 22 March 1984; and "Exploratory Digging to Yield Geophysical Data: $4 m for Med-Dead Sea Canal Tunnel", Jerusalem Post, 2 February 1984, p. 6.

b/ Statistics furnished by the Jordan valley Authority.

c/ The Jordan valleys Rural Development Takes Root. Jordan Press Foundation, 1983, 9 pp.

d/ Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Jordan Valley Authority, wadi Mujib and southern Ghors Irrigation Project. Feasibility report prepared by Binnie and Partners (overseas) Ltd., Jouzy and Partners, Ove Arup and Partners. January 1979. This report includes detailed farm plot layouts, various cropping systems, drainage canals, irrigation layouts, engineering drawings for water delivery systems, drainage, location of town sites, etc.

e/ Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Jordan valley Authority. Jordan valley Irrigation Project Stage II. Irrigation Development Using Controlled Flows, Feasibility Study. Dar Al-Handasah consultants (Shair and Partners). January 1981.

f/ Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Jordan Valley Authority, Updated Feasibility study Report on mujib and southern Ghors Irrigation Project. Stage II. Nippon Koei Co. Ltd. Consulting Engineers, Tokyo, Japan. June 1983.

g/ The difference between gross and net being drainage canals, water delivery, roadways, etc., within each site.

h/ See footnote 7, P. 126.

i/ Salameh, E. and Khawaj, M.,. The Mediterranean Dead Sea Canal and its Environmental Impacts, University of Jordan,,Water Research and Study Center, 2nd. issue, May 1984, 36 pp.

j/ The Arab Potash Co. Ltd., Annual Report 1983.

k/ Groupement D’etudes touristiques: Jordan Rift Valley, Jordan Rift Valley Tourism Development Project, Final Report to the Jordan Valley Authority, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, December 1979.


List of persons who met with the team of experts-in Jordan

His Royal Highness Hassan-bin-Talal, Crown Prince of Jordan

Office of the Crown Prince

Mr. Yousef Baran, Head of the office
Mr. Ahmed Manko, Economist

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

His Excellency Mr. Valed Tash, Secretary-General
Mr. Aamal Khutat, Director, Research and Translation Department
Mr. Abdullah R. Hamadneh, Research and Translation Department
Mr. Mohammad Jamal Balkiz, Research and Translation Department
Mr. Klaib S. El-Fawwaz, Department of International Organizations
Mr. Abdel-Elah Khatib, Department of International Organizations

Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Environment

His Excellency Mr. Hamdallah F. Nabulsi, Minister
Mr. Awad K. Tell, Undersecretary

National Planning Council

Mr. Omar-Abdulla Dukhan, President

Arab Potash Company

Mr. Ali Yousef Ensour, Managing Director
Mr. Suleiman Hawari, Deputy General Manager
Mr. Hussam Deranieh, Deputy Operations Manager
Mr. Morgan Locke, Works Manager
Mr. W. N. Stanley, Technical Manager

Jordan Valley Authority

Mr. Monther Haddadin, Director-General
Mr. Usaid Hanbali, Head of Study and Design Division
Mr. Avedis H. Serpekian, Design Engineer

Water Authority

Mr. Mohamad S. Kilani, President

Environmental Department

Mr. Sufyan A. Tell, Director

Natural Resources Authority

Mr. Yousef P. Nimri, Director-General


Mr. Adnan Raouf, Resident Representative
Mr. Usama Mufti, Administrative Officer

Letter dated 6 March 1984 from the Permanent Representative of Jordan to the United Nations addressed to the Under-Secretary-General of the Department of Technical Co-operation for Development

I wish to refer to your letter dated 29 February 1984 concerning the preparation of the Secretary-General's report to be submitted in accordance with General Assembly resolution 38/85 of 15 December 1983.

It is my pleasure to inform you that the Government of Jordan will be glad to receive and facilitate the work of the team of experts which will be dispatched to t he area in the context of the implementation of the above-referred to General Assembly resolution.

Further, the Jordanian authorities will be pleased to forward meanwhile to you any information which would become available on the Israeli project.

(Signed) Abdullah SALAH
Permanent Representative

Letter dated 8 May 1984 from the Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations addressed to the Under-Secretary-General of the Department of Technical Co-operation for Development

I refer to your letter of 29 February 1984 on General Assembly resolution 38/85 of 15 December 1983 entitled "Israel's decision to build a canal linking the Mediterranean Sea to the Dead Sea".

I should like, in this respect, to indicate the following points:

1. Israel's approach to the issue of the Canal is a constructive one and is based on Israel's intentions to implement a project which will be of remarkable benefit to the population of the entire area. Consequently, Israel has repeatedly indicated its willingness to establish contacts with the appropriate Jordanian authorities on the project as a whole and on all technical and professional elements involved. Regrettably, the Government of Jordan has not responded to date to these offers.

2. Despite previous requests made by Israel for information on the Government of Jordan's intentions in relation to the diversion of Red Sea waters to the Dead Sea, as proposed in the declared program of the Government of Jordan (see annex B to the Israel note verbale of 23 May 1983), no such information has been provided.

3. Under the terms of resolution 38/83 of 15 December 1983, the team of experts would be called upon to assist the Secretary-General in the preparation of a report, monitoring the "adverse" effects of the Canal project. This is in contrast to Israel's constructive approach to its implementation.

4. In the light of the above-mentioned resolution, which is biased, a priori, against Israel, it is felt that no useful purpose would be served by a further visit on the part of the team of experts in order to gather the information indicated in the resolution. Their mission would merely serve the political purposes of elements hostile to Israel aiming at including and exploiting the issue of the Canal in their relentless campaign against Israel, without addressing themselves to the merits of the project.

Having regard to all these considerations, it is felt that an additional mission by a team of experts might prove both unnecessary and unproductive,

(Signed) Yehuda Z. BLUM
Permanent Representative of Israel
to the United Nations

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