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Dead Sea may disappear by 2050
Friday, August 3, 2001

Dead Sea Articles from BBC News

Friday, 3 August, 2001, 23:00 GMT 00:00 UK

Dead Sea 'to disappear by 2050'

By Caroline Hawley in Amman

Environmentalists in Jordan are warning that the Dead Sea will disappear by the year 2050 if its level continues to drop at the current rate.

Friends of the Earth (Middle East) has stepped up a campaign entitled "Let the Dead Sea Live" to try to save the world's saltiest body of water.

The group is running a photo competition to draw attention to the threat facing the lake, which is home to several rare species of plant and wildlife.

The Dead Sea - the salty lake at the lowest point on Earth - is unique.

You can float in it, it is renowned for its health-giving properties and on both its Israeli and Jordanian sides, it's a major tourist draw.

But environmentalists claim that the Dead Sea is now "dying" as the water that used to feed it is diverted for industry, agriculture and domestic use in both Israel and Jordan.

Sultan Abdul Rahman of Friends of the Earth (Middle East) says the impact is disastrous.

"It's not only that the water level is going down - the ecosystem that used to exist around the Dead Sea is also suffering a lot.

"The fresh water that used to go to the sea is pumped to cities like Amman and that means that no more water is flowing downstream to the Dead Sea to support the wildlife along the Jordan River and its wadis and springs," Mr Abdul Rahman said.

He said the lake's water level was now dropping by over a metre a year, endangering indigenous plants and birds.

Plea for help

Friends of the Earth (Middle East) wants to register the Dead Sea for protection with the UN, and set up a regional management plan for the lake.

But the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is hampering efforts to co-ordinate a response to the Dead Sea's crisis.

Jordan's Water Minister, Hazim el-Naser, said the only solution was to pump water into it from the Red Sea - a multi-billion dollar project.

"Simply, this money is not available and there's a need for the international community to help these countries to build and implement this project which, in the future, would be an important element for regional co-operation and peace in this area," Mr El-Naser said.

But it is a long-term project with little prospect of getting off the ground in the current political climate.

"The prerequisite for implementing this project is to have good co-operation between the parties before starting such a project. I think it's not the right time for it," said Mr El-Naser.

So, with the region in the grip of a serious drought, the Dead Sea's shore will continue to recede.

And Friends of the Earth is warning that if things continue as they are at the moment, in less than 50 years, the Dead Sea will be gone for good.


Monday, July 12, 1999 Published at 17:05 GMT 18:05 UK

World: Middle East, Dead Sea in danger

By Jerusalem Correspondent Hilary Andersson

The Dead Sea, the saltiest body of water on earth and a glistening natural treasure, is shrinking dramatically due to human decisions to siphon off its waters.

Located at the lowest point on earth, almost 400 metres below sea level in the scorching Jordan valley, the Dead Sea is 50 kilometres long.

Just 40 years ago its stretched 80 kilometres in length.

The Ein Gedi Spa, set in a magical spot at the foot of high cliffs which stretch from the Dead Sea up to the Judaean Desert, was on the edge of the sea just 15 years ago.

Now visitors to the Spa have to take a small train down to the sea, as the shoreline is several hundred metres away.

British explorers in 1917 made a mark on the stone which originally lay at the water's edge.

That marker is now more than 15 metres up a cliff and a road runs between the cliff and the new shoreline.

Water shortage

One of the main reasons for the sea's shrinkage is the diversion of water.

Ninety percent of the waters that flow from the Jordan River, which traditionally supplies the Dead Sea, is diverted for drinking and agriculture in Israel and Jordan.

The region is suffering its worst water shortage in 60 years.

Most Israeli agricultural produce is exported. Environmentalists argue that, if the water was not diverted and the Dead Sea was left to flourish, tourism would grow, making up revenues lost from agriculture.

Industrial activities also contribute to the Dead Sea's problems. Massive evaporation pools vaporise the water in order to extract minerals, which are used for industrial activities and for making beauty products. The evaporation pools account for a quarter of the Dead Sea's shrinkage.

Healing properties

Currently, hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to the Dead Sea every year to float on its waters - so salty that even a well-built man can float unaided, reading a newspaper comfortably while lying on his back.

The water contains a high level of sulphur, and the thick black mud that is found at the sea's edge contains healing qualities that are said to be effective in the treatment of skin diseases.

"We are approaching a time when the ecological habitat which the unique fauna and flora rely on will vanish and that's why its a critical moment to save the Dead Sea", said Gidon Bromberg of Friends of the Earth Middle East.

Source: BBC News



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