Take the most beautiful blue blown-glass vase designed with divine providence, throw it against a wall, and watch it shatter into hundreds of pieces. Then, try to glue it back together again and enter it into a design competition. This is what is happening with the Dead Sea. The northern part is shrinking as a result of reduced inflow, while the southern end is expanding because of the Dead Sea Works’ alteration of its chemical balance.
As a result, Ein Boker’s tourism industry is in grave danger, but Tamar’s Regional Council Head is mostly concerned with having the Dead Sea listed as one of the World’s Seven Natural Wonders next year in order to draw increased tourism traffic to the Negev. Meanwhile, the Society for the Protection of Nature (SPNI) calls the lake an “ecological disaster;” how the Knesset (the Israeli parliament) rules in the coming month will determine which industry will endure the brunt of this disaster.
From Lake Number Five, the Dead Sea Works extracts potash, elemental bromine, caustic soda, and magnesium, which are used for fertilizer. As a result, 20cm of sodium chloride or table salt accumulates at the lake’s bottom each year. This in turn is increasing the lake’s water level, which is lapping at the fringing hotels and threatening and multi-million dollar spa tourism industry.
“Geological experts and consecutive State Comptroller’s reports have warned that the hotels are running on borrowed time, and that they have already passed the deadline for finding solutions. In the meantime, water is being pumped out of the basin as part of a stop-gap measure to keep the hotels standing,” according to Rebecca Anna Stoil.
Three different ideas are being explored to resolve the issue:
- Move the hotels. Break them down, and move them further inshore;
- Build a barrier to keep the water in a lagoon;
- Harvest the salt in order to keep the water levels steady. The potential costs associated with each of these options has not been disclosed, nor do they demonstrate any true willingness for the industries to restore some normalcy to the lake.
The expected costs associated with these solutions has not been disclosed, nor do the options demonstrate any genuine willingness on the part of the various industries to restore the lake to some kind of normalcy.
Instead, the regional council, Dead Sea Works – which will shoulder 39% of the costs, and the hotels are arguing over who should be held most accountable.
Dead Sea Works blames the government for overbooking the land, the Regional Council adds that it is a “non for profit organization” and shouldn’t have to absorb the costs, and the hotel industry is simply awaiting news of its fate.
“Our time has run out and we must reach a decision,” Tamar Regional Council chairman Dov Litvinoff told the Jerusalem Post.
He then added that “winning the Seven Wonders of the Natural World competition…would bring an additional 1.5 million tourists and 20,000 jobs to the region, which largely subsists on tourism.”
The Jerusalem Post reported:
The solution of harvesting the salt is the most logical solution and the best solution in terms of the environment, tourism, and employment,” said Economic Affairs Committee chairman MK Ophir Akunis (Likud), a position that was reinforced by representatives of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) as well as by Israel Hotel Association Dir.-Gen. Shmuel Tzuriel.
Menachem Zlotsky, of the Environmental Affairs Ministry, said that the salt harvest was the only truly long-term solution to stabilize the situation in the Southern Basin.
The government expects to pass a decision by the end of October.
More on the Dead Sea: