Add MEEF to
problem is there's no comprehensive management plan in place.
Everyone is just taking as much [water] as they can without
enough thought to the consequences," said Mira Edelstein, of
Friends of the Earth Middle East, an environmental organization
with members in Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Territories
that is lobbying to restore the flow of the Jordan River in an
effort to revive the Dead Sea coastline, and wants the Dead Sea
declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. "Many historic and
cultural and heritage sites are in the Jordan Valley and around
the Dead Sea [and] we are going to see their downfall instead of
MEEF - Middle East Projects News & Analyses - previous page
years ago, the waters were 395 metres below sea level; now
they're 418 metres
Dead Sea is being gradually sucked dry
CAROLYNNE WHEELER - The Globe and Mail
EIN GEDI, ISRAEL -- The sign on Route 90 still points to a
campground, but what remains is more like a battleground:
uprooted, leafless trees; deep, cratered earth; and a single
lopsided building, half-buried in sticky soil.
The once picturesque picnic spot on the shores of the Dead Sea
has fallen victim to what environmentalists say are the
consequences of decades of sucking fresh water away from the
lowest point on Earth. The Dead Sea, biblical site of Sodom and
Gomorrah and modern source of legendary curative health
treatments, is dying. An estimated 90 per cent of its freshwater
tributary, the Jordan River, has been diverted for drinking,
industry and to irrigate the banana and date plantations and
greenhouse operations found along the Jordan Valley. And now the
Dead Sea, which has already fallen to 418 metres today from 395
metres below sea level 50 years ago -- is dropping as much as
one metre a year, a devastating pace in the environmental world.
The damage is immediately visible even to the untrained eye: At
the Ein Gedi nature reserve, a pipe collects the remaining
trickle of fresh water coming from a waterfall and drains it
away to a mineral-water bottling plant. Across the road at a
popular spa, beach facilities have been moved several hundred
metres away from the main building as the water recedes; a
truck-drawn trolley now brings tourists down to the water every
15 minutes to save them the long, hot walk.
Enormous sinkholes of the type that swallowed the campground are
spreading, as salt blocks left behind by the receding water are
dissolved by fresh groundwater. Parts of the Israeli highway,
which runs the length of the Dead Sea and beyond starting from
the top in the West Bank, are now at risk of caving in. On the
Jordanian side, sinkholes are reported to have swallowed large
chunks of farmland, road, construction projects and even donkeys
There is a plan to save the Dead Sea, but like everything else
in the Mideast, it is a tricky negotiation among three
governments, subject to much bureaucracy and long delays.
Israeli vice-premier Shimon Peres is championing a "Peace
Valley" project that includes a 200-kilometre canal to bring
water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea to replenish it.
Along the way, the project would include desalination plants to
increase the supply of fresh water in this desert region, as
well as tourist facilities, a free-trade zone and even a new
joint airport at the southern tip where Israel and Jordan meet.
"It's a first, very significant step made by the government of
Israel," said Yoram Dori, a spokesman for Mr. Peres. The
project, originally promoted by Jordan, now has formal support
from authorities in the Palestinian Authority and the Jordanian
government as well as Israeli representatives, and Mr. Peres
plans to bring his proposal before the Israeli cabinet before
the end of the month.
But, 12 years after the Israel-Jordan peace treaty that makes
mention of the Dead Sea and Jordan River, and four years after
the first serious discussions to build the conduit, the project
has gone no farther than clearance for a World Bank study. And
environmentalists and much of Israel's scientific community who
oppose the plan say they hope it stops there.
They fear that pumping sea water along with the brine from
desalination plants into the Dead Sea will leave striations in
the water, forever changing its spectacular blue colour and
introducing foreign algae and minerals, and leaving salt
sediment on the shores since regular sea water has only 40 grams
of salt per kilogram of water, compared with 350 grams in the
Dead Sea. They also worry that leakage from the 200-kilometre
pipeline could contaminate groundwater with salt, and damage the
environment around it.
"I cannot think of a worse idea," said Dan Zaslavsky, a former
Israeli water commissioner and professor specializing in water
and soil engineering at the University of Haifa. He is also
chairman of Israel's National Commission for Research and
Development. He advocates restoring the flow of the Jordan River
by cutting back the water drawn from it, and replacing it with
desalinated water from the Mediterranean.
"This is unbelievable. Unbelievable, so idiotic it is. . . .
There are several alternatives which are so obviously better."
Cost estimates for the project have ranged up to $4-billion
(U.S.) and studies conducted in the 1980s suggested it would
take 10 years to build such a conduit.
Still, with the Dead Sea falling faster each year, there is
acknowledgment that something must be done, and quickly.
"We don't see any other solution for the problem of the Dead
Sea. The Dead Sea is a problem of Israel, Jordan and the
Palestinians, and we must deal with it," Mr. Dori said. "We are
doing everything needed to advance the implementation of the
Mubadala, Hochtief JV to bid for Arab projects
German construction group Hochtief and Abu Dhabi investment
agency Mubadala Development Co have formed a venture to bid
jointly for Arab infrastructure projects, a Mubadala official
Mubadala, which has used a windfall in oil revenue to buy stakes
in Western companies including sports car maker Ferrari, is
bidding together with Essen-based Hochtief to develop airports
in Jordan and Tunisia, Waleed Ahmed Al Muhairy, Mubadala's chief
operating officer said.
'Mubadala has partnered with Hochtief to develop airports in
Amman and Enfida,' Muhairy said on the sidelines of an
investment conference organised by London-based Middle East
The joint venture was also seeking to manage airports in the
Middle East and North Africa, Muhairy said.
Mubadala linked up with Wolfsberg, Germany-based Volkswagen and
Saudi Arabia's family owned Olayan Group in 2004 to buy Dutch
car fleet-management company LeasePlan Corp. for 2 billion euros
At that time, Abu Dhabi said it might buy a stake in Volkswagen
to help the car maker finance its share of the purchase, but
this plan fell through after the company's share price rose.