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Tuesday, September 15, 1998 Published at 22:53 GMT 23:53 UK

World: Middle East

Something fishy in Jordan's water

Minister Haddadin resigned over the water scandal

The Jordanian government has released thousands of fish into the main dam supplying water to the capital, Amman, in an attempt to curb the pollution which last month forced the resignation of a government minister.

The Ministry of Water Affairs has blamed the problem on high summer temperatures which have led to an excessive concentration of algae in the capital's Zai dam.

Residents of Amman have had to live with stinking, foul tasting water coming from their taps, and sales of mineral water have soared to the point where supplies ran out.

In August, the Water Affairs Minister, Munzer Haddadin, appeared on television denying that there was a problem with Jordan's water supply, and claiming he was still drinking water supplied by the capital city's main dam with no ill effects.

When it became clear that the problem was not being tackled the minister was forced to resign, and outside help was brought in to identify the causes.

Children at risk

Unusually high late-summer temperatures had caused a bloom of algae in the Zai dam, making the water unsafe for vulnerable groups such as the young and the elderly.

Tests showed the presence of worms and weeds which a main treatment plant had been unable to handle.

The new minister, Mani al-Mulqi, now says that he has solved the problem at its root by releasing fish into the Zai dam. It is hoped that the fish will devour the algae and help to improve the quality of the capital's drinking water.

The algae scare is however only one of many problems affecting Jordan's scarce water resources. The country is one of the driest in the world, and is expected to run out of water within 20 years unless it finds new supplies or obtains the means to recycle its water.

Jordan is currently discussing a $5bn plan is currently being discussed with donor countries and aid agencies, but the low price of oil and adverse international economic conditions may make that plan difficult to implement.

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