Over the last year alone, the Dead Sea has shrunk by a record 1.5 metres. This ecological catastrophe however isn’t caused by environmental factors alone – according to the environmental organisation Middle East Friends of the Earth, half of the shrinkage was caused by two local fertilizer companies. Speaking to Bloomberg, Gidon Bromberg who is the Israeli director of the Friends of the Earth Middle East, urged Israel Chemicals Ltd and Jordan’s Arab Potash to stop siphoning off so much water and allow the Dead Sea to recover.
“This is unacceptable and speaks to the urgency of the need to force industry to change their extraction process,” Bromberg said. Evaporation as well as the diversion of water from the Jordan River which feeds the Dead Sea have lead to the decline in the sea’s levels. Potash is the raw material needed to make fertilizer and is extracted from the waters of the Dead Sea. However, campaigners want to see this industry better controlled and limited to ensure the future survival of the Dead Sea and its renowned medicinal benefits.
“We’re keen on doing all possible to preserve the Dead Sea, which is shrinking annually,” Issa Shboul, spokesperson of Jordan’s Ministry of Environment, told Bloomberg. “We regularly request the potash companies and other companies that benefit from the Dead Sea water for their business to adopt the latest technological advances to reduce the negative impact on the Dead Sea level,” Shboul said.
Both Israel Chemicals and Arab Potash have reported significant profits over the last couple of years. Israel Chemicals Ltd had a net income of $1.5 billion last year and Arab Potash had net income of $423 million in 2011. To resolve the problem, Jordanian, Palestinian and Israeli policymakers have been considering the Red-Dead Canal project which hopes to stop the Dead Sea shrinkage by tunnelling water from the Red Sea. However, Friends of the Earth Middle East have urged the countries to consider alternatives as the project fails to properly consider the ecological consequences of bringing sea water into the Dead Sea.
Preliminary reports from the Red Sea-Dead Sea Water Conveyance Study Program have shown that mixing sea water, desalination brine or both with Dead Sea water entails risks, especially when amounts exceed 300 million cubic meters a year. The Dead Sea currently has an annual water deficit of 700 million cubic metres.
For more on the Dead Sea see:
Environmentalists: ‘Explore Alternatives to Red-Dead Canal Project’As Israel Chemicals Profits Soar, the Dead Sea Suffers
Spencer Tunick Plans Naked Dead Sea Anniversary Shoot
Image of Dead Sea coast in Israel via Shutterstock.com