January 17, 2013 – Epiphany Celebrations – Economic Benefits Lost from River’s Dire State


Economic Benefits Lost from River’s Dire State

January 17, 2013

The Eastern Orthodox holiday of Epiphany, which commemorates the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, will be celebrated this weekend – on Friday January 18th, by the Greek Orthodox and on Saturday, January 19th, by Ethiopian and Eritrean pilgrims.

This is traditionally a day when Eastern Christians make a pilgrimage down to the Lower Jordan River to celebrate the holiday and reaffirm their own faith through their own baptism. Between 7,000 – 8,000 people each day are expected to attend the rites at Kaser el Yehud Baptism site on the western bank of the Lower Jordan River, with ceremonies beginning at 9:30 AM on both days.

EcoPeace Middle East  has repeatedly asserted that the rehabilitation of the River Jordan – “holy to half of humanity” – offers huge potential for the region’s tourism sector, but is so far limited due to dire state of the Lower Jordan River. With 96% of the river diverted by Israel, Syria and Jordan, the slow trickle that remains at the Kaser el Yehud baptism site is not inviting enough to attract the potential of 100’s of thousands of pilgrims.

Research shows that the rehabilitation of the Lower Jordan River – while costly – has net positive economic benefits for the region. EcoPeace recently conducted an Economic Benefits Study of the Lower Jordan River together with leading economists including the study’s regional editor Dr. David Katz, Dr. Nir Becker from Tel Hai College in Israel, Ele Jan Saaf from Saaf Consult in Jordan and Saeb Bamya from CORE Associates in Palestine. The study demonstrated that the economic benefits of a rehabilitated LJR are substantial, even when benefits to international visitors are excluded from the analysis.

According to the study’s regional editor and Professor of Environmental Economics, Dr. David Katz, “This study is a first and critical step towards helping our regional decision makers understand the lost economic opportunities of not investing in the rehabilitation of the Lower Jordan River. This study demonstrates that a Jordan River that once again flows and hosts a healthy ecosystem will provide economic, as well as ecological, social and cultural benefits to communities on both sides of the River.”

EcoPeace’s earlier “Environmental Flows” report undertaken by Jordanian, Palestinian and Israeli experts, concludes that 400-600 million cubic meters (mcm) of water are needed to rehabilitate the Lower Jordan River, recommending that Israel allocate 220 mcm, Syria 100 mcm and Jordan 90 mcm of water to meet this rehabilitation goal. The complementary study, “An Economic Analysis of Policy Options for Water Conservation” identified that nearly a billion cubic meters of water can be saved in the region – part of which, from Israel and Jordan – can be utilized to meet the rehabilitation goal for the Lower Jordan River.

For more information:

Gidon Bromberg, EcoPeace Israeli Director: 052-4532597

Dr. David Katz, Regional Editor of Economic Benefits Study: 0542048694