March 6, 2006

Dead Sea is in decline, says Global Nature Fund

Water levels in the Dead Sea are dropping by a metre per year and the historic water body has already lost over one third of its surface area, says the Global Nature Fund (GNF). As a result, the GNF has designated Dead Sea as the "Threatened Lake of the Year 2006."

The international foundation, in co-operation with local partner EcoPeace/Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME), is seeking to call attention on the need to rehabilitate and conserve one of the world's most famous lakes.

The main cause of its decline is the diversion of the waters of the Jordan River that had naturally fed the lake. The construction of dams, canals and pumping stations have greatly reduced water inflows to it.

While some of this water is being used by the Israelis, Jordanians, and Palestinians for basic domestic consumption, most goes towards highly subsidized and inefficient agriculture. To save the lake, the governments of Israel and Jordan have proposed the building of a canal linking the Dead Sea and the Red Sea.

This plan is raising many environmental questions about how pumping water out of the Gulf of Aqaba will affect the coral reefs and about the threat of gypsum formation resulting from the mixing of Dead Sea brine with marine water. FoEME is presently conducting an independent environmental assessment of the proposed $5-billion (U.S.) canal project.

The GNF co-ordinates the international Living Lakes Network, comprising 40 member lakes worldwide, along with the Dead Sea. Living Lakes is supported by a number of major corporations, among them Unilever, Deutsche Lufthansa and DaimlerChrysler.

More information is available on the GNF or FoEME Web sites, www.globalnature.org/lake2006, www.foeme.org.

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