(MENAFN - Jordan Times) Several ancient archaeological sites in Jordan will be affected by the construction of the Red-Dead Water Conveyance Project, a recent report concluded.
Many sites will potentially be affected by components of the Red-Dead project, an archaeological site assessment report said, underscoring that any impact to these sites should be avoided by relocating the relevant components.
The report, which is part of the World Bank-led Red Sea-Dead Sea Water Conveyance Study Programme, identified Wadi Finan, Bir Mathkour and several other sites in Wadi Araba as locations that might be damaged or destroyed without close monitoring during the project's construction.
The Red-Dead project is part of international efforts to save the Dead Sea, which has been shrinking at the rate of one metre per year, largely due to the diversion of water from the Jordan River for agricultural and industrial use.
Initial plans for the Red-Dead project propose pumping one billion cubic metres of water annually from the Red Sea into the rapidly shrinking Dead Sea to stop its depletion.
"The construction of the water conveyance, desalination plant, brine discharge conduit and drinking water conveyances is virtually certain to encounter sites or artefacts of archaeological significance," according to the report, posted on the World Bank website.
Wadi Finan, Bir Mathkour, Ghor Fifa, Qasr Tlah near Tafileh, and parts of Wadi Araba were categorised as critical archaeological sites that would be affected by components of the project, according to the report, to which the Department of Antiquities contributed as a partner.
The main focus of the archaeological assessment was in Jordan, the report said, noting that areas of construction in Israel and the Palestinian territories are much smaller and are expected to lie within an existing road corridor.
Identifying archaeological sites is vital because the Gulf of Aqaba, Wadi Araba and the Dead Sea area have one of the longest histories of human activity to be found anywhere, according to the report.
"There are a number of known sites in the valley with cultural and religious significance in the history of Judaism, Christianity and Islam," the report said.
Wadi Finan is a complex of sites of regional and international significance because it documents human activities at the very beginning of settled and agricultural societies, along with the earliest use of metals in the region, the report said, highlighting the importance of the site.
"Currently there are discussions about proposing the Finan area for inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List," the archaeology site assessment report indicated.
In Bir Mathkour, 29 sites were found to potentially be affected by the project, 12 of which are cemeteries, while the remainder consists of enclosures with graves and occasional flint or pottery scatters. In addition, 21 individual graves were recorded.
In Ghor Fifa, the site of a proposed low-level desalination plant, the report identified four sites including a cemetery, an enclosure, some stone circles and a pottery scatter.
Meanwhile, a proposed conduit joining the high-level desalination plant to the hydropower plant at Ghor Fifa passes right beside the Roman fort and reservoir of Qasr Telah, located just to the south of the Dead Sea basin.
"The Qasr Telah area is regionally significant because it comprises a major ancient field system, one of the better preserved Roman forts in the area, and a large reservoir and channel system," the report said.
It indicated that such sites will be affected during the construction stage, with permanent impacts resulting from the construction of work camps and associated structures, temporary and permanent roads for access and maintenance, areas where rock from the tunnel construction will be dumped, and trenching for laying pipelines.
To avoid destruction of the archaeological sites during project construction, the report called for inserting provisions into construction contracts, including restrictions on the movement of vehicles, control over the dumping of waste, education of the workforce on the value of heritage assets, fencing to avoid accidental damage and monitoring by the Department of Antiquities.