AMMAN — The Cabinet on Sunday announced it has decided to move ahead with the first phase of a project to desalinate Red Sea water and save the shrinking Dead Sea.

During a session on Sunday, headed by Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour, the Cabinet approved a recommendation by its Economic Development Committee to prepare studies and tender documents for the first phase of the project. 

Minister of Water and Irrigation Hazem Nasser presented a briefing on the scheme, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.

The Ministry of Water and Irrigation said last month that it had dropped a plan to implement the Jordan Red Sea Development Project (JRSP) and adopted a new scheme to desalinate Red Sea water.

After years of comprehensive studies, the JRSP was deemed a costly and time-consuming venture that required billions of dollars to be implemented.

Nasser announced then that the ministry will float a tender before the end of the year to implement the project, which entails a conveyor to transfer seawater from the Red Sea, a desalination plant to be established in Wadi Araba and another pipeline from the plant to the Dead Sea to discharge the brine, which will help save the natural wonder from drying up.

The new project will achieve Jordan’s two main goals: revive the shrinking Dead Sea and provide water to an ever-growing population, Nasser explained.

The plant is expected to have the capacity to desalinate 200 million cubic metres [mcm] of water and generate 400-500 job opportunities for local residents.

The new venture is expected to cost $980 million. The government will secure $300-$400 million in grants.

Also during the Cabinet session Sunday, Minister of Finance Umayya Toukan presented a briefing about the government’s priorities in the 2014-2016 budget and the major financial and economic developments in 2012.

Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Ibrahim Saif also briefed the Council of Ministers on the Governorates Development Fund initiative after His Majesty King Abdullah gave directives to the government to prepare a comprehensive development plan for the Kingdom’s cities last week, Petra reported.

The Cabinet also decided to appoint Mohammad Hazaimeh as director general of the General Budget Department and Omar Zabt as secretary general of the Social Development Ministry, according to Petra.