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Monday, 2 September, 2002, 14:56 GMT 15:56 UK
Dead Sea rescue plan unveiled
Dead Sea
Water levels are gradually falling
Israel and Jordan have agreed on a plan to build an $800 million pipeline to rescue the shrinking Dead Sea, which they share.

They propose to pipe water north from the Gulf of Aqaba in Red Sea to the Dead Sea, which is falling by about one metre (three feet) a year.

The pipeline will stretch about 320 km (200 miles), according to the plans which were announced at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg.

Dead Sea
The tourist attraction could become a thing of the past

But the plan has met with opposition from other countries in the region. Egypt's delegation at the summit has said that it goes against Arab League resolutions banning co-operation between Israel and Arab states.

And Faruq Qaddumi, who heads the Palestinian delegation at the summit, was quoted by the Egyptian newspaper Al-Gomhuria on Friday as saying the project "involves drawing a new border between Israel and Jordan at the expense of the Palestinian people".

However, Israeli Regional Co-operation Minister Roni Milo told the AFP news agency that the Palestinians are "part of this project and going to be partners".

Part of the Dead Sea shore is claimed as Palestinian territory, although currently under Israeli occupation.

The Arab delegations, which include Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, are also concerned that Jordan is allowing itself to be used by Israel in having a joint launch event at this summit, painting as a regional initiative what is really an Israeli project.

Feasibility studies

This is the largest joint scheme undertaken by Israel and Jordan, who signed a peace accord in 1994.

International aid and help from the World Bank would probably be sought in order to build the pipeline, said senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official Jacob Keidar.

Mr Keidar told Reuters news agency that Germany was one of the countries which had expressed an interest in aiding the plan.

Feasibility studies would have to be conducted before the project gets the formal go-ahead and it would take several years to build the pipeline, Mr Keidar added.

Tourist attraction

Water levels in the Dead Sea are dropping rapidly due to declining rainfall, and an increase in the amount of irrigation water being taken from the River Jordan.

Water flows in from the River Jordan and other sources, but there is no outflow - it simply evaporates, concentrating the salts in the water into brine.

Environmentalists warn the salt lake - which is a major tourist attraction - could vanish by 2050 if nothing is done.

Already more than 3,000 people have been evacuated from its eastern shore due to subsidence caused by shrinkage.

The water is so salty that swimmers can lie back as if on an airbed, read a book, or simply doze in the sun.

It is impossible to sink.

1. The volume of water flowing into the Dead Sea from the River Jordan has decreased as more and more water is taken from the river for irrigation.

2. The water level in the Dead Sea is falling at a rate of a about one metre a year.

3. The $800m pipeline scheme will see water pumped 320 km (198 miles) from the Gulf of Aqaba to boost the Dead Sea's dwindling level.

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See also:

28 Aug 02 | Africa
12 Aug 02 | Americas
22 Jan 02 | Science/Nature
03 Aug 01 | Middle East
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