Over the past few weeks, Dead Sea Works (DSW) has saturated Israeli media outlets with a misinformation campaign in ads, on the Internet, television, newspapers, and billboards all over the country claiming that the “Dead Sea Works brings life to the Dead Sea” when in fact they are directly responsible for its destruction.
Not surprisingly, this campaign is taking place as Minister of Tourism Stas Misezhnikov and Minister of Environmental Protection Gilad Erdan invoke the ‘polluters pays principle’ in proposing that Israel Chemicals (Dead Sea Works’ parent company) pay most of the estimated NIS 5-7 billion cost of rehabilitating the southern basin of the Dead Sea, where the company’s mining operations are carried out.
Furthermore, let’s not forget the recent report in the ‘Globes’ newspaper indicating that the Dead Sea Works profits shot to NIS 5.3 billion in 2008 alone, boosted by the soaring prices for potash.
So, did DSW really bring life to the southern Dead Sea? No.
Do the Dead Sea mining industries (both Israeli and Jordanian) contribute to 40% of the Dead Sea’s decline? Absolutely.
The Dead Sea Works campaign has five talking points, which for the sake of truth we would like to respond to each.
DSW Claim Number 1: Since construction of the water carrier, almost no water from the Sea of the Galilee reaches the Dead Sea and the Southern Basin has dried.
FoEME: Indeed, the Israeli National Water Carrier, together with water diversion from Syria and Jordan, has diverted 98% of the Lower Jordan River (from the Sea of the Galilee to the Dead Sea) for domestic and agriculture consumption. The remaining 2% of the flow, which consists largely of untreated wastewater, arrives to the Dead Sea. This diversion is responsible for roughly 60% of the annual decline of the Dead Sea.
DSW Claim Number 2: Due to DSW, which brings water to the Southern Basin, we all have access to the Ein Bokek beach.
FoEME: The whole operation of the DSW is designed to evaporate water as fast as possible to enable them to harvest the highly valuable minerals. Due in part to the antiquated technology which DSW employs (evaporation pools) the Dead Sea today is divided into two pools (remember this?) with the northern sea dropping at one meter a year and due to the DSW mining techniques, the floor of the southern Dead Sea is rising by 10 cm each year! The rise in the water level near Ein Bokek is a by-product of the mining process. The evaporation pools are designed to evaporate the water, enabling the minerals to be harvested and the salt residues discarded. The salts left over from the process cause the floor of the Dead Sea to rise, resulting in a major flooding hazard for the hotels and endangering the jobs and livelihoods of area residents.
DSW Claim Number 3: Tourists come by the thousands to enjoy one of the wonders of the world.
FoEME: The Dead Sea is truly an international tourism attraction. You can vote to have it included in the New Seven World Wonders here. But unless the DSW starts contributing to the solution and not destroying this precious shared natural heritage site, the Dead Sea will continue to disappear. If we continue to treat the Dead Sea this way, we will lose thousands of tourists.
DSW Claim Number 4: The DSW brought life into the Southern Basin and the hotels were subsequently constructed and today they are flourishing.
FoEME: The hotels were constructed in spite of DSW, not fully understanding the disastrous effects the company would have in their future. The hotels are currently threatened by immediate flooding and eventually, if the Dead Sea continues to flood and decline, these hotels will be closed.
DSW Claim Number 5: The DSW provides livelihood for 30,000 families.*
FoEME: Great! But please invest in innovation of new extraction technologies, invest in the revitalization of the Dead Sea, invest in the future of the families that you provide jobs for!
There are other methods for extracting minerals from the Dead Sea other than evaporation pools. The technology that Dead Sea Works uses is the same it used since it’s founding in 1930. Evaporation pools are the cheapest, easiest, and most dangerous. Dead Sea Works profits should go towards innovation and different methods of extracting the valuable minerals. The Dead Sea is a shared water basin, which requires cooperation from all parties, including DSW, to care for it.
This campaign is a cheap distraction from reality. Do they think we are idiots? We all know the Dead Sea Works is destroying the Dead Sea.
To learn more about the Dead Sea, read FoEME’s publication “Let the Dead Sea Live.”
*According to DSW, if taken as a whole (in combination with Dead Sea hotels and tourism jobs) the workforce employed is roughly 9,000 individuals.