The world's lowest and saltiest water body, which is now 67 km long and 18 km wide, may soon shrink to the size of a pond
With water level falling by a meter a year and no measures being taken yet to reverse the decline, the Dead Sea may soon shrink to a pond or even dry out completely by 2050.
According to officials, the political strife in the Middle East has been undermining measures to halt the decay of the world’s lowest and saltiest body of water.
“It might be confined into a small pond. It is likely to happen and this is extremely serious. Nobody is doing anything now to save it,” Dureid Mahasneh, a water expert in the Jordan valley, was quoted as saying by The Telegraph.
The shoreline of the world-famous lake, a tourism destination renowned for the beneficial effect of its minerals, has receded by more than a kilometer and may dry out completely by 2050, said Mr. Mahasneh, who is also a former local government head.
“Saving the Dead Sea is a regional issue, and if you take the heritage, environmental and historical importance, or even the geographical importance, it is an international issue,” he said.
The Dead Sea, landlocked between Jordan, Israel and the West Bank, is rapidly vanishing because water that previously flowed into the lake is being diverted, as well as being extracted for industrial and agricultural purposes.
Jordan has recently decided to build a $2 billion pipeline to refilling the Dead Sea without help from Israel or the Palestinian Authority. But, the expert said the project alone cannot address the problem.
The degradation began in the 1960s when Israel, Jordan and Syria began to divert water from the river Jordan, the Dead Sea’s main supplier.
For decades, the three neighbouring countries have taken around 95 per cent of the river’s flow for agricultural and industrial use. Israel alone diverts more than 60 per cent of the river.
Both Israel and Jordan have set up massive evaporation pools to vaporise Dead Sea water for the production of phosphate, while five-star hotels have sprung up along its shores, where tourists flock for the curative powers of the sea mud and minerals.
The salty lake is currently 67 km long and 18 km wide.
The top of the water, which was 395m under global sea level in the 1960s, has further lowered to minus 422 metros, according to Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME).
Meanwhile, the World Bank has funded a two-year study of a plan for a pipeline from the Red Sea to replenish the Dead Sea. But, environmentalists say the scheme could harm the Dead Sea further by introducing Red Sea water and changing its chemistry.
“We are dealing with at least two sensitive and different ecosystems: the Dead Sea and the Red Sea. We also need to keep an open mind about alternatives,” said Munqeth Mehyar, FoEME chair.
Climate change is also believed to have aggravated the crisis and officials are expected to raise the issue in the U.N. Climate Summit to be held next month in Copenhagen.