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.
“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
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.
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
Ben Hartman contributed to this report.