Israel - Environment Ministry opposes Red-Dead Sea link

Israel's Ministry of Environmental Protection strenuously opposes the plan to build a pipeline between the Red Sea and Dead Sea which the World Bank is promoting.

The ministry presented its position on the project ahead of next week's hearing.

The ministry warns that the flow of water from the Red Sea to Dead Sea is liable to cause algae and bacterial blooms, which will color the Dead Sea red, fill it with calcium sulfate, causing a stench from sulfur hydroxide emissions. The leaks from the pipeline are also liable to contaminate ground water in the Jordanian part of the Arava.

"These changes will wreak havoc on the Dead Sea and the region's tourism, which is why a pilot project should be conducted on a scale that will not jeopardize the Dead Sea and can be used to assess the ecological repercussions of the idea," says the Ministry of Environmental Protection. Outgoing minister Gilad Erdan added, "A hasty decision without data and real tests is liable to utterly destroy the Dead Sea."

The plan promoted by the World Bank calls for a protected underground pipeline comprising several internal pipelines laid in Jordanian territory from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. The plan also calls for the construction of a hydroelectric plant and seawater desalination facilities. The latest report by World Bank experts says that the $10 billion project is financially worthwhile. The World Bank believes that the project will solve Jordan's drinking water shortage, and the problem of the falling water level in the Dead Sea's northern basin by creating a permanent flow of water into it. The Dead Sea's water level is falling because of overuse of the Jordan River's water and the evaporation pools in the southern basin for the production of potash and other minerals by Israel Chemicals Ltd. and Jordan's Arab Potash Company Ltd.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection said today that a study by the Geological Survey of Israel found that if the flow of seawater into the Dead Sea exceeds 350 million cubic meters a year, it is liable to destroy the Dead Sea and its tourism industry. "Reports of the World Bank itself describe the great uncertainty about the repercussions of the full-scale project, on the principle of preventative caution. The ministry supports conducting a limited pilot, which will permit the flow of substantial seawater into the Dead Sea to ease the fall in the water level while enabling the examination of changes and effects of the water flow on the entire ecological system," says the ministry.

Ministry of Environmental Protection experts believe that the salinization should be tested by means of a limited pipeline to a controlled site, south of the Dead Sea's northern basin, in order to accurately test the environmental effects of the measure. "This test will provide greater certainty about the processes predicted in the models. A pilot will allow larger water flows in the future for a responsible saving of the Dead Sea. It is unacceptable that the destruction of the Dead Sea and its ecology as we know it should be based solely on economic calculations," concludes the ministry.


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