What You Need to Know about the Dead Sea
The Dead Sea is one of the wonders of the Middle East and the entire world. Its surface is 421 meters below seas level, the lowest point on Earth’s surface. It is shared by Jordan, Israel and Palestine. The Dead Sea is major source of potash and other minerals, with its waters bringing tourists from around the world to partake in its therapeutic value. The basin around the Dead Sea is home to nearly 600 species of plants and animals, and boasts of international cultural heritage sites, such as Mount Nebo, the fortresses of Karak and Masada, and the Qumran caves.
The Dead Sea is also the world’s saltiest large body of water, with its water containing 10 times more salt than the ocean. Few animals can live in such severe conditions, which is why the body of water was christened the Dead Sea. But now the name is getting sadly even more appropriate due to the large-scale diversion of the Lower Jordan River, and accelerated evaporation of water to make harvesting the minerals easier for the mineral extraction companies and climate change impacts, the Dead Sea is shrinking rapidly. Without government and public intervention, the Dead Sea water levels will continue to fall. Action is needed, and it is needed now.
The sea level fell 26 meters from the 1960s until today, reaching an average drop rate of 1 meter a year. Now the surface of the Dead Sea is 26 meters below its natural level. This has occurred primarily because of over-exploitation, mainly by Israel and Jordan. The most problematic exploitations have related to the massive water diversions from the Lower Jordan River, which is the Dead Sea’s natural water source. Additionally, Israel and Jordan both have mineral extraction industries that have resulted in a loss of 1/3 of the lake’s natural surface area, as well as caused two thousand sinkholes. The consequences of these actions are not purely environmental: besides causing the destruction of natural habitats, the sinkholes also damage infrastructure (such as roads and lucrative tourist developments) and threaten the economic livelihoods of local communities.
To preserve the Dead Sea, long-term sustainable management of the Dead Sea basin is imperative. FoEME believes that saving the Dead Sea must entail the creation of a trans-national commission involving Jordan, Israel and Palestine. This commission would help foster the conditions necessary for sharing the economic benefits of this lake, as well as balancing the need for development with the need for preservation of this unique natural environment.
How You Can Help Stop the Dead Sea’s Decline
More people need to know about the Dead Sea and its rapid evaporation. Friends of the Earth Middle East, working in conjunction with 350.org, are hosting an event to draw attention to the impact climate change and unsustainable water consumption and policies are having on this international treasure.
The event, entitled, “Climate Dots by the Dead Sea” is being held this Saturday, May 5th, 2012, by the shore of the Dead Sea, in Jordan. At 10:00AM FoEME and 350.org will be organizing ‘a climate dot,’ with school children and volunteers forming a circle by the sea. Those standing in the circle will be holding 350 balloons, which will rise up on 26 meter long strings to bob in the air where the water level used to be, and should still be. It will be quite a sight to see; a hauntingly visceral depiction of the loss experienced by the Dead Sea, and by us, the residents of this region.
Please come to the Dead Sea on May 5th to support our efforts, hold a balloon, or spread the word!
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For more information on about the event, please contact us either by phone- 065866602 ex.22 – or by sending an email to email@example.com. Can’t come to the event, but want to contribute to our efforts to save the Dead Sea? Make a donation today!
This post was contributed by FoEME intern and Social Media Coordinator, Luca Winer. Luca is based in FoEME‘s Amman office.