Can a Red-Dead Canal
Save the Dead Sea?

Jordan appealed for international assistance to help save the ecosystem of the Dead Sea, whose water level is dropping.  The surface level of the sea—the saltiest water in the world and the lowest point on earth—has fallen one meter (3.3 feet) a year for at least the past 20 years, because of evaporation and the diversion of rivers and use of river water for drinking and agriculture by Syria, Jordan and Israel.

Experts warn the Dead Sea will disappear in 50 years if current trends persist.  One solution would be for Jordan and Israel to draw water from the Red Sea, which lies at the end of the long valley in which the Dead Sea is situated.  This would be accomplished by bringing Red Sea water into the Dead Sea via an Israeli-proposed Red-Dead Canal.  The two countries have agreed on the plan, but they are waiting for funding approval from the World Bank and other donor countries.

“We appeal to water experts, attending this conference to help us explain the crisis of the Dead Sea at international forums,” Jordanian Water and Irrigation Minister Hazem al-Nasser said at a five-day meeting on water held at the Dead Sea resort of Southern Shuneh, 45 kilometers (30 miles) southwest of the capital, Amman.

 

“The Dead Sea is a unique international treasure, and it’s the world’s responsibility to take decisive action immediately to save this treasure,” al-Nasser said.  He said the receding of the sea will have negative consequences, such as the formation of sinkholes, 20 meters (66 feet) in depth.

The conference brought together some 1,500 experts and officials from 30 countries to discuss the management of water. Al-Nasser said Israel had presented Jordan with a draft plan that envisages drawing water from the Red Sea through a canal to be built along the Jordanian-Israeli border.

The project, which is expected to cost more than US $1 billion, would exploit the 400-meter (1,320 foot) difference in altitude between the Read Sea and the Dead Sea, which could also generate hydroelectric power for both countries along the way.  The cooperation between the two countries would also enhance peace in the region.

– By Clarence H. Wagner