Jordan dam reserves at all-time low as water crisis looms

Waleh dam in Madadaba governorate. (Al-Mamlakah TV)
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Waleh dam in Madadaba governorate. (Al-Mamlakah TV)
Mujib dam in Karak governorate. (Al-Mamlakah TV)
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Mujib dam in Karak governorate. (Al-Mamlakah TV)
King Talal Dam in Jerash governorate. (Al-Mamlakah TV)
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King Talal Dam in Jerash governorate. (Al-Mamlakah TV)
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Updated 13 November 2021

Jordan dam reserves at all-time low as water crisis looms

Waleh dam in Madadaba governorate. (Al-Mamlakah TV)
  • Of the kingdom’s 14 major dams, three are now empty, according to officials
  • Head of the Jordan Valley Farmers’ Union Adnan Khaddam blamed the government for the “risky” water situation

AMMAN: Amid a delay in rainfall, Jordan’s major dams are either completely empty or facing critically low water levels, putting the country on the verge of an unprecedented drought crisis should dry weather conditions persist.

Of the kingdom’s 14 major dams, three are now empty, according to officials, who said that emergency plans are being put in place to save farmers in the fertile Jordan Valley, known as the food basket of Jordan.

In recent remarks to Arab News, Omar Salameh, spokesperson of the water ministry, said that the Waleh, Mujib and Tanour dams in the southern desert regions have dried up due to crippling drought.

Salameh added that the King Talal and Wadi El Arab dams in the north are not yet empty, but are reporting critically low water levels.

“All in all, all the country’s dams have reached their lowest water levels due to extremely dry seasons over the past two years,” he said.

The official explained that the 2020-2021 rain season — from December to May — was “very low” and brought 60 percent less rainfall than the annual average.

“This coupled with high temperatures and high demand on water has led to all the consequences we are having now.”

However, citing data from the Jordan Meteorological Department, the official said that the delay in rainfall is “not exceptional” and that “it’s still too early to declare an emergency water situation.”

In a recent report, the JMD said that delayed rainfall is expected as a result of climate change, adding that rainfall in autumn makes up less than 20 percent of the total wet season.

Salameh said that the ministry has put in place short and long-term plans to address a possible dry season.

With low water storage in dams meaning less water to be portioned out to farmers, Minister of Agriculture Khaled Hneifat announced that farmers in the Jordan Valley are now permitted to drill wells to access groundwater for irrigation — a practice that was previously prohibited in the country.

During a recent meeting with the Lower House’s water and agriculture committee, Secretary General of the Water Authority of Jordan Bashar Bataineh said that Jordan’s water deficit in 2021 stands at 40 million cubic meters, of which half is in Amman, the densely populated capital of about 4 million people.

Head of the Jordan Valley Farmers’ Union Adnan Khaddam blamed the government for the “risky” water situation, adding that it “stood idly by and took no action.”

Khaddam was quoted in local media outlets as saying that the King Talal Dam, the largest in the kingdom, has reached “dangerously low levels.”

He added: “The dam covers 80 percent of the water needs of farmers in the Jordan Valley, but the available quantity in the dam is very low,” he said, warning of serious drought if rain does not arrive.

National conveyor project

Jordan, classified as the world’s second most water-scarce country, announced the launch of the Aqaba-Amman Water Desalination and Conveyance National Project (AAWDC), described as “the largest water generation scheme to be implemented in the history of the kingdom.”

During a meeting with lawmakers, Bataineh of Jordan’s Water Authority said that the megaproject will “ensure the country’s water stability until 2040.”

The water ministry announced that the AAWDC, once completed, will generate 130 million cubic meters of water each year.

Launching the project’s first phase in February 2020, the government said that the AAWDC will be implemented on a build-operate-transfer basis and will provide a sustainable water resource for future generations in all parts of the kingdom.

The government said at the time that the strategic scheme is part of the Jordan’s efforts to adapt to climate change, dwindling water resources and population growth.

Additional water from Israel

On Oct. 12, Jordan signed an agreement with Israel to purchase an additional 50 million cubic meters of water outside the framework of the peace agreement and what it stipulates in regard to water quantities.

The additional water Israel will provide will come from the Sea of Galilee.

The water ministry issued a statement at the time, quoting an unnamed source who said that the agreement was signed following a meeting in Amman of technical committees from both sides.

The agreement “was proof that we want good neighborly relations,” Karine Elharrar, Israel’s minister of infrastructure, energy and water resources, told Israeli media.

Jordan and Israel in July said that they had reached a deal under which the latter will sell an additional 50 million cubic meters of water annually to the kingdom following a meeting between the foreign ministers of both countries.


Iraqi-Kurdish woman first named victim of Channel tragedy 

Iraqi-Kurdish woman first named victim of Channel tragedy 
Updated 9 sec ago

Iraqi-Kurdish woman first named victim of Channel tragedy 

Iraqi-Kurdish woman first named victim of Channel tragedy 
  • Maryam Nuri Mohamed Amin was messaging UK-based fiance when dinghy began to sink
  • 27 people died while attempting perilous journey from French coast to UK

LONDON: A Kurdish woman from northern Iraq has been named as the first identified victim of this week’s mass drowning in the English Channel.

Maryam Nuri Mohamed Amin, 24, was messaging her UK-based fiance when the dinghy she was traveling on began to sink on Wednesday. 

She was one of 27 people who died while attempting the perilous journey from the French coast to Britain, which has claimed dozens of lives this year.

Her fiance told the BBC that she tried to reassure him that they would be rescued while they were sinking, but she perished along with 26 others. Just two passengers survived. 

There were 17 male casualties, six women — one of whom was pregnant — and three children. 

The two survivors, a Somali and an Iraqi, have been discharged from a French hospital and are expected to be questioned about the incident.

Amin had attempted the journey with a female relative, both hoping to join family in Britain.

She was messaging her fiance on social media app Snapchat moments before the dinghy began to capsize. 

She hailed from Souran, a town in northeast Iraqi Kurdistan. Her family are awaiting the return of her body for a funeral.

A relative said: “Her story is the same as everyone else — she was looking for a better life. One of her uncles was one of the people closest to me. He cared for us when my father was a political prisoner. But the family have had such a tragic life.”


President faces another test as Algerians vote

President faces another test as Algerians vote
Updated 27 November 2021

President faces another test as Algerians vote

President faces another test as Algerians vote
  • Saturday’s poll will be the third vote in the country under Tebboune, who has vowed to reform state institutions inherited from Bouteflika

ALGIERS: Algerians vote on Saturday in local elections seen as key in President Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s push to turn the page on the two-decade rule of late president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
But despite official campaigns urging Algerians to “make their mark,” the vote for municipal and provincial councils has sparked little public interest.
Observers are predicting a low turnout, as with a string of poorly attended votes since the Hirak pro-democracy protest movement that drove Bouteflika from power in April 2019.
The North African country’s rulers are trying to “impose their will despite the embarrassing results of previous elections,” said analyst Mohamed Hennad.
But he said voters saw the exercise as producing “an electoral mandate stripped of any political content.”
Saturday’s poll will be the third vote in the country under Tebboune, who has vowed to reform state institutions inherited from Bouteflika, who died in September at the age of 84.
Algeria’s local assemblies elect two-thirds of members of the national parliament’s upper house, with the president appointing the remainder.
But while the national electoral board ANIE says more than 15,000 candidates are in the running, campaigning has been muted.
Redouane Boudjemaa, a journalism professor at the University of Algiers, said the vote was simply “an attempt to clean up the facade of local councils by changing their members, to benefit the ruling class.”
“Politics at the moment is limited to slogans proclaiming that the country has entered a new era, while all indicators point to the contrary,” he said.
Tebboune was elected in a contentious, widely boycotted 2019 ballot months after Bouteflika stepped down under pressure from the army and Hirak rallies.
He has vowed to “build the institutions of the state on a solid foundation” and break with Bouteflika-era local and regional elections marred by widespread claims of fraud.


Tebboune’s rule has seen a crackdown on journalists and Hirak activists, even as he has packaged major policy moves as responses to the “blessed Hirak” and its calls for reform.
He has also faced a diplomatic crisis with Algeria’s colonial ruler France.
But on Friday Tebboune said in a televised interview that “these relations must return to normal provided the other party (France) conceives them on an equal basis, without provocation.”
The analyst Hennad said the elite in power since Algeria’s independence from France in 1962, was using slogans around change to impose its agenda, without truly engaging other political forces.
The president pushed through an amended constitution in November 2020, approved by less than 24 percent of the electorate, and oversaw a parliamentary election that saw just 23 percent of voters take part.
But Tebboune, a former prime minister under Bouteflika, has downplayed the significance of turnout and said the key question is whether representatives have legitimacy.
Despite a declared boycott by the opposition Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD), party activists are standing on independent lists, setting up a showdown with the rival Front of Socialist Forces (FFS) in the Kabylie region that often sees significant abstentions.
Electoral board head Mohamed Charfi has stressed the body’s efforts to boost turnout.
But Boudjemaa said the main issue at stake was the “huge economic and social challenges of the coming year,” warning that Algerian’s purchasing power could “collapse.”
“Several indicators show that the pouvoir (ruling elite) has neither the vision nor the strategy to respond to the crisis,” he said.


Oman, UAE and Egypt ban travelers from 7 southern African states over COVID variant

Oman, UAE and Egypt ban travelers from 7 southern African states over COVID variant
Updated 27 November 2021

Oman, UAE and Egypt ban travelers from 7 southern African states over COVID variant

Oman, UAE and Egypt ban travelers from 7 southern African states over COVID variant

DUBAI: Oman, UAE and Egypt joined a series of countries worldwide who banned direct flights from seven African countries temporarily in response to the spread of a new coronavirus variant.

Starting from Nov. 28, directs flights from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, and Eswatini would be blocked and a range of measures would be introduced for any travellers arriving from such countries via indirect flights, whether for transit or otherwise. 


Sudanese politicians released after beginning hunger strike

Sudanese politicians released after beginning hunger strike
Updated 27 November 2021

Sudanese politicians released after beginning hunger strike

Sudanese politicians released after beginning hunger strike
  • Several high profile politicians remain in custody

CAIRO: Sudan’s former minister of cabinet affairs Khalid Omer Yousif was released from detention along with others less than a day after beginning a hunger strike, the country’s information ministry said in a statement early on Saturday.
An army takeover on Oct. 25 halted a power sharing deal between the military and civilians from the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) alliance, and a number of ministers and top civilian officials were detained.
Also released on Saturday were former Khartoum State governor Ayman Nimir and anti-corruption taskforce member Maher Abouljokh.
Several high profile politicians remain in custody.
Yousif and others had began the hunger strike, according to the Sudanese Congress Party, to protest their continued detention despite the signing of a deal between military leaders and civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok which provided for the release of all civilian detainees.
Several other prominent civilian politicians and activists had been released on Monday and Friday.
Protests calling for the military to exit politics and be held to account for the deaths of civilian protesters have continued https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/hundreds-sudanese-protest-against-deal-between-pm-hamdok-military-2021-11-25 since the announcement of the deal between military leaders and Hamdok.
A call has been issued for more mass rallies on Sunday.
The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said late on Friday that 63 people had been injured during the dispersal of protests on Thursday, including one by gunshot wound in the city of Bahri.


Arab coalition carries out airstrikes on locations in Yemeni capital

Arab coalition carries out airstrikes on locations in Yemeni capital
Updated 27 November 2021

Arab coalition carries out airstrikes on locations in Yemeni capital

Arab coalition carries out airstrikes on locations in Yemeni capital

RIYADH: Operational objectives of airstrikes on locations in Yemen’s capital had been achieved, the Arab coalition said early Saturday.

Recently, the coalition has been striking Houthi militia assets in the city in an effort to degrade the Iran-backed group’s capabilities to launch attacks toward Saudi Arabia.

The coalition said they had hit drone workshops and weapons depots in the Dhahan neighborhood and warned civilians from crowding around the targeted areas.

On Friday, the coalition release satellite images of the aftermath of airstrikes on Houthi camps in the presidential palace.

“We have taken preventative measures to spare civilians and civilian objects from collateral damage,” the statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency said. “The operation was conducted in accordance with international humanitarian law and its customary rules.”

The Arab coalition said on Monday that the Houthi militia in Yemen have turned Sanaa airport into a military base for experiments and cross-border attacks.

Video footage released by the coalition showed the Iran-backed Houthis carrying out training exercises on UN planes, with the intent of testing a missile air system, Saudi state TV reported.

Last week, coalition airstrikes took out a secret hideout in Sanaa housing experts belonging to the Iran Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah.

Saudi Arabia is targeted by the militia nearly daily using explosive drones, which are often easily destroyed by the Kingdom’s air defenses.

The Saudi-led Arab coalition has been fighting to restore legitimacy to Yemen’s internationally recognized government, after Houthis seized the capital, Sanaa, in 2014.

Houthi attempts to target civilians has been labeled as war crimes by the Kingdom.

The war, which has now lasted for seven years, has cost thousands of Yemenis their lives and has forced many more to depend on humanitarian assistance.