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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 June, 2004, 04:41 GMT 05:41 UK
Jordan appeals to save Dead Sea
By Dale Gavlak
BBC correspondent in Amman

Jordan has launched an appeal to the international community to save the Dead Sea from extinction.

Dead Sea
The Dead Sea's days as a tourist resort could be numbered

It said the world's saltiest body of water, found at the lowest point on the Earth's surface, will disappear in 50 years' time unless more water is pumped into it.

It has proposed that nearly two billion cubic metres of water per year be pumped from the Red Sea into the Dead Sea.

The project, dubbed the Red Dead Initiative, has been promoted at an international water management conference taking place at the Dead Sea in Jordan.

Dangerous sink-holes

The Dead Sea is a unique international treasure but its very existence and that of the surrounding eco-system are now at risk.

The Jordanian Minister for Water and Agriculture, Hazem Nasser, put it to the conference participants bluntly.

"There is a declination in the level of the sea at about one metre every year and as a result of this, there are negative environmental consequences that are affecting the existing Dead Sea itself as well as the surrounding environment, the ecological systems and so on."

Therefore, he said, "we need to move quickly to try to mitigate these environmental damages".

Mr Nasser outlined some of the negative consequences such as dangerous sink-holes, 20 metres in depth, that are forming along the sea's edges.

There is also less fresh water flowing in. He added that because water acts as a lubricant underground, the region could see an increase in earthquakes.

Funding lacking

The World Bank is assisting Jordan by drawing up technical studies for a plan that aims to pump water from the Red Sea to raise the level of the Dead Sea back to its historic levels of about 395m below sea level as opposed to its present level of 410m.

A reverse osmosis system would transform sea water into fresh water.

The $1bn project has the backing of Israel and the Palestinian authority which also stands to benefit from additional fresh water supplies.

What is lacking is the necessary funding for the project to go ahead.

Dead Sea rescue plan unveiled
02 Sep 02  |  Middle East
Dead Sea keeps falling
22 Jan 02  |  Science/Nature
Dead Sea 'to disappear by 2050'
03 Aug 01  |  Middle East

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