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Jordan River placed on endangered listcomment (0)

July 19, 2007

The lower portion of the Jordan River is so polluted that the World Monuments Fund (WMF) has designated it an "Endangered Cultural Heritage Site."

The WMF, the leading international body for the protection of monuments, placed the river that is revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims on the organization's "watch list" of 100 endangered sites June 6.
Also listed as endangered are a 2,000-year-old Roman bridge that crosses the river and a 12th-century "Khan," a rest house for travelers. Both are in disrepair.

About 90 percent of the river's natural water flow has been diverted by Israel, Jordan and Syria for domestic and agricultural use, with sewage flowing in its place, according to Friends of the Earth Middle East, an environmental organization with offices in Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.
The upper Jordan, which is formed from three tributaries originating in Lebanon, the Golan Heights and Israel, is considered clean and flows into the Sea of Galilee. Israel's large baptism center is located in this region.

Highly polluted in parts
The lower Jordan, which meanders some 125 miles from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea, is highly polluted with sewage and agricultural runoff.

Some pilgrims, particularly in Jordan, do not realize that the river is polluted and wade into the water.
Environmentalists for years have warned that the river is endangered but governments have been slow to respond, said Mira Edelstein, a spokeswoman for Friends of the Earth Middle East.

"We're not proud of being on this list and hope to get off as soon as we can," Edelstein said. "Hopefully, this international pressure will bring our governments to act."  (RNS)
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