UN Says Lebanon Water Project Is Minor Diversion

Tuesday, August 29, 2000 | Tag Cloud Tags: , ,

There were calls in recent days for calmer heads to prevail over the building of a water pumping station along a tributary of the upper Jordan River on the Israel-Lebanon border.

Israeli officials said they sent a sharp message on Wednesday to Syria and Lebanon through the UN that they would respond harshly to any attempts to divert the waters of the Hatzbani river from Israel. Jerusalem said the new pumping station along the stream violated international agreements and threatened to alter the status quo on water between the two countries.

But a UN official in south Lebanon claimed Thursday that Israel knew of the diversion project as early as a month ago and that the small scale of the project should not cause alarm. UNIFIL spokesman Timur Goksel said he was "baffled" at Israel's "exaggerated" reaction, claiming the project involves a small four-inch pipe that will provide badly-needed water to a nearby Lebanese village of 200 residents.

Nonetheless, Israeli authorities felt to send a strong message over the incident, out of concern Lebanon might eventually try to build a dam to divert the entire river. IDF Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz added a reassuring note yesterday that "we should not indulge in fiery rhetoric and should certainly not be talking about war."

The Hatzbani contributes 25% of the water of the upper Jordan River, one of Israel's prime water sources. The Jordan River and Sea of Galilee system provide 40% of Israel's annual water supply. Israel is suffering its third straight year of below-average rainfall, and the Sea of Galilee has receded to one of its lowest levels in history.

Used with Permission from International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

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