Dead Sea lobby discusses how to save it

The most popular solution as far as both Israel and Jordan are concerned is the construction of a Red Sea-Dead Sea canal.

dead sea 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
dead sea 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Dead Sea, whose water level has dropped by approximately a third over the last four decades, is in danger of disappearing unless something drastic is done to find other sources of water to replenish it. The most popular solution as far as both Israel and Jordan are concerned is the construction of a canal from the Red Sea to the gradually evaporating Dead Sea. The Lobby to Save the Dead Sea met on Tuesday afternoon with President Shimon Peres, who for more than 30 years has been involved in developing the Dead Sea area. Comprising MKs, geologists, ecologists, heads of local councils and academics, the lobby consisted until Tuesday of 99 people. "We deliberately cut off membership at 99 so that you could be number 100," chairwoman MK Estherina Tartman told Peres. Tartman noted that the curative qualities of the Dead Sea are mentioned several times in the Bible, which is more than enough reason, she said, to preserve it as a national heritage treasure. It's time that we stopped talking about the Dead Sea and started doing something," Tartman said. She said she considered the time to be opportune because the lobby, which crosses the political divide, had the cooperation of all government ministries, as well as the World Bank. Peres said it was wrong for the World Bank to have undertaken a feasibility study on solutions to problems facing the Dead Sea. Those who commissioned the study, he said, did so because they thought that the World Bank would finance what had to be done. "Whoever thought the World Bank would put $3 billion on the table to save the Dead Sea was gravely mistaken," he said. The president suggested that funding could be obtained if proposals were turned into projects. Financing should not come from the government, but from international sources, Peres said, adding that the first enterprise should be tourism-based, incorporating both Petra and Masada as well as the Dead Sea itself. To turn the area into a real tourist paradise would also cause land values to soar, he said, citing Las Vegas as an example. While refraining from mentioning casinos, Peres talked of an artificial lake and a long promenade that had been built in Las Vegas, and their effect on land values in that city. A similar promenade could be built through the Arava, he said. Envisaging the huge tourist potential - for Jordan as well as Israel - Peres declared: "We can create a million jobs." If Israel builds a lake similar to that of Las Vegas, remarked Peres, it could be used to channel water to the Dead Sea. He also talked about the area's potential for high tech-based agriculture, and his dream for a peace valley that would include three industrial parks in which Palestinians, Jordanians and Israelis would be gainfully employed. Former finance minister Avraham Hirchson asked Peres to appoint a member of his staff as a permanent liaison between the lobby and Beit Hanassi.