From: Shafika Mattar, Associated Press
Published December 11, 2006 12:00 AM

Mideast May Save Dead Sea With Red Sea

SOUTHERN SHUNEH, Jordan -- Officials from Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority met along the shores of the Dead Sea to settle details of a study to save the shrinking body of water, agreeing to proceed with plans to draw water from the Red Sea.


The surface level of the Dead Sea _ the saltiest water in the world at the lowest point on Earth that is estimated at 1,200 feet below sea level _ has fallen about three feet a year in the past 20 years because of evaporation and allegedly the diversion of rivers by Syria and Israel.


The Dead Sea and its surrounding has been the source of much human social history and it is linked to the three monotheistic religions _ Judaism, Christianity and Islam.


In 2005, the three concerned parties appealed to the World Bank to coordinate financing the feasibility study. The World Bank have agreed and appealed to the donor countries.


Four donor countries _ France, Japan, the United States and the Netherlands _ have committed themselves to participate in financing the $15 million study. The study will look at the environmental and social consequences of transferring water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea, Jordan's Minister of Water and Irrigation Mohammed Thafer al-Alem said Sunday.


Geological experts warned that the drop in the water level would increase the earthquake possibilities. They also warn the Dead Sea will disappear in 50 years if current trends persist.


The Israeli Minister of National Infrastructure, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, said the "study is an excellent example for cooperation, peace and conflict reduction."


The Red-Dead Sea canal project, which is expected to cost more than $1 billion, would exploit the 1,320-foot difference in altitude between both areas.


If implemented, the 248-mile desert area between the two seas would benefit from the fresh water to turn the region into an agricultural hub for the benefit of the three countries. A desalination project is also envisaged to provide drinking water for Amman. Israel and the Palestinian territories would also benefit from the drinking water.


Source: Associated Press


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