Ghor Haditha in Jordan – As the world marks Earth Day 2022 on Friday, farmers in southern Jordan are experiencing the devastating consequences of climate change.
Each year, water scarcity has increased and sinkholes have appeared in the vicinity of the Dead Sea.
As the population increases, so doThe constant flow in refugeesThe demand for water and agricultural products also rises from neighboring countries. The Dead Sea’s annual drop of approximately one metre (three ft) causes serious problems for Jordanian agriculture.
According to the United Nations, Jordan ranks second in water scarcity. Due to the rapid growth of the population, and industrial and agricultural problems, Climate changeAs water demand rises, the country is now facing serious consequences.
The Dead Sea, a salt lake on the ground, is located in Israel, Jordan, the occupied Palestinian territory, and Israel. It has receded approximately 20 metres (66ft). Over the past 20 yearsResearchers say so. Sinkholes have been thriving due to a decline in water levels, and consequently groundwater.
Ghor Haditha is a region in southern Jordan near the Dead Sea. It is located about 100km (60 mi) south of Amman.
A farm located just a few hundred metres from sea has seen sinkholes severely impact agricultural production. Large amounts of soil have disappeared.
Amina al-Huaima has been managing the farm at Ghor Haditha for two decades.
“The hours are long and we do not get paid a lot. It is hard work, especially as the risk of the ground disappearing is getting higher,” al-Huaima told Al Jazeera.
‘Our land is destroyed’
Ten workers harvest the last tomatoes before the season closes in May. Samir Muhammad al-Habashna points to the hills behind the farm.
Although there were more people in the area, they are now fewer.
“Our field was bigger before and we have fewer employees as the demand has gotten smaller. It is not like before as the earth has literally disappeared beneath our feet,” al-Habashna says.
He walks towards a sinkhole, which is about 30m (98ft) deep. The field is about 200 metres (656 feet) from the Dead Sea’s shore, and sinkholes are scattered all over.
Because these fields and their workers are dependent upon the salt lake, the lower water levels in the Dead Sea have had a negative impact on the quality of life.
Al-Habashna has been working in the area since the 1990s and is frustrated by the lack of assistance farmers have received.
“Our land is destroyed. We tried to find solutions, but couldn’t find them. No one helped … not even the ministry of environment helped us,” he says.
Professor Nizar Abu Jaber, a professor at the German Jordanian University, specializes in the geochemistry and groundwater in Jordan. Jaber stated that climate change is not the reason for the drop in Dead Sea levels. The diversion water from the Jordan RiverAs the main cause.
“The shrinking of the Dead Sea is basically caused by diverting the headwaters coming in from the Jordan River. It really has little to do with climate change,” Abu Jaber says.
Water flows from Syria and south Lebanon, into Lake Tiberias and then into the Dead Sea through the Jordan River. It penetrates the Dead Sea area’s ground, where it dissolves the salt into soil. This causes the land’s density to drop and sometimes to collapse, causing sinkholes.
Before Israel began diverting water from its headwaters in 1960s, the Dead Sea used to receive approximately 200 million cubic metres of water annually. Abu Jaber states that Jordan and Syria later started to divert water. The amount that reaches today’s Dead Sea is now less than 100 millions cubic metres.
Abu Jaber sees sinkholes as a problem to those living near the Dead Sea.
“It is a menace for the people who are working there. It is dangerous because the sinkholes appear suddenly and without any warning,” he says.
The Jordan Valley Authority manages the region’s water resources and protects them. Engineer Khouloud Bashtawi of the authority claims there are more than one cause for the drop at the Dead Sea level.
“The reduction of annual rainfall and increased flow of water into the main wadis [ravines] that lead to the Dead Sea, the increase of flow in the Jordan River, and the higher temperatures – which increase the evaporation of water – all lead to the drop of the water level,” Bashtawi said.