Green groups dissatisfied with Dead Sea budgets

Groups decry five-year, NIS 830 million budget for Dead Sea environmental protection and tourism.

February 14, 2012 04:14
1 minute read.
Dead Sea's Ein Bokek

Dead Sea's Ein Bokek 390. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

After the cabinet unanimously approved a five-year, NIS 830 million budget for Dead Sea environmental protection and tourism on Sunday, green groups were not wholly satisfied with the decision.

Rehabilitation will occur throughout the northern and southern basins, with particular efforts concentrated on renovating existing infrastructure at Ein Bokek and Hamei Zohar, as well as other improvements to various atrisk areas. The Tourism Ministry will invest about NIS 700 million in the project, while the Environmental Protection Ministry will invest about NIS 130 million.

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“For the first time, after years in which the Dead Sea was used only as a source of resource exploitation, the state understands that natural resources are public property,” Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan said in a statement released by his office.

Green groups, however, feel that the newly approved budget is insufficient to cover the Dead Sea’s needs.

“Only the comprehensive bill to restore the Dead Sea will provide a real solution to the worsening condition of the Dead Sea,” said Amit Bracha, executive director of Adam Teva V’Din (Israel Union for Environmental Defense).

Bracha was referring to a broad Dead Sea rehabilitation plan drafted by his organization and proposed formally by MK Dov Henin (Hadash), which was rejected twice by the cabinet in the past few months. This bill, according to Bracha, would limit the amount of water that Dead Sea Works would be able to pump in the future and determine policies for Israel’s contribution to everdwindling water levels.

“Without the approval and implementation of this bill, it will be impossible to rehabilitate the Dead Sea and safeguard it for future generations – not by means of the amount of money the government approved [on Sunday], which is intended primarily for tourism purposes,” Bracha said.

Gidon Bromberg, Israel director of Friends of the Earth Middle East, echoed Bracha’s sentiments, equating the cabinet decision to providing “aspirin to a cancer patient” and calling investments in tourism “populist” and unhelpful to the Dead Sea’s declining situation.

Ben Hartman contributed to this report.

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