QASR AL-YAHUD, West Bank – Christian pilgrims who flock to the Jordan River to immerse themselves in the water where Jesus was baptized may have nothing left to dunk in next year.

A team of Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian environmental scientists says large stretches of the biblical river could dry up by 2011. And much of what remains is nothing but a canal of sewage, they said in a report released Monday.

“You can almost jump across this river. In other places, you don’t need to even jump — you can just cross it. It’s ankle deep,” said Gidon Bromberg, Israeli director of Friends of the Earth Middle East, the organization that commissioned the report. “You struggle to see the water.”

Sadly, it is one of the efforts to save the river that has helped doom it, the report said. Israel and Jordan have agreed to stop dumping waste into the river and instead treat it in plants expected to be up and running in both countries in 2011.

But if no wastewater enters the lower Jordan — the river’s largest section — then no water will flow in it at all, the report notes.

According to Christian tradition, John baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. The Bible describes the river, which flows south from the Sea of Galilee into the Dead Sea, marking the border shared by Israel, Jordan and the West Bank, as “overflowing.”

In 1847, a U.S. Naval officer visiting the area reported on the “deafening roar of the tumultuous waters.”


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