Refilling the Dying Dead Sea


Dead Sea or the sea in which you can float, no matter what your statistics are, has a salinity of 35% and borders the Jordan in the east and Israel in the west. Its hypersalinity makes it inhabitable for any kind of life form, hence the name. But the unique property also makes it a tourist’s attraction for as long as the recorded history goes back.

But the Dead Sea has been shrinking. It is shrinking by about a meter every year. The only major water source into the Dead Sea is the Jordan river, with no outlet water streams. And the rainfall is scanty too, which is about 100-50 dead-sea_floatingmm per year.  Since 1960s the inflow of fresh water from the Jordan River to the Dead Sea has reduced significantly due to diversion to the north for irrigation and other purposes. Not only will the dwindling level of the water body change its own characteristics, it is also changing the surrounding area’s ecological balance. Decreasing underground water level, increasing salinity of groundwater, formation of sinkholes etc. are some of those effects. The experts speculate that the Dead Sea may vanish by the end of 2050.

The Jordan national Red Sea Development Project, announced by the Jordanian government in the World economic forum, 2009, plans to replenish the Dead Sea with water from the Red sea. Near Aqaba, water from Red Sea will be desalinated in a desalination facility, to provide fresh water to Jordan and the brine discharge to be sent to the Dead Sea for replenishment through tunnel. The Jordanian project plans to extract 300 million m3 of water every year from the Red Sea. But the concern over the effects of such replenishment on the already fragile ecosystem of the Dead sea had kept the project on hold for nearly 5 years. But last Monday, the agreement was finally signed at the headquarters of World Bank, in Washington DC, and is expected to cost around $250-$400 millions. The agreement was signed between Israeli Energy Minister Silvan Shalom, Shaddad Attili, head of the Palestinian water authority, and Hazim el-Naser, head of the Jordanian water ministry.

Although the plan seems pragmatic, to get involved into the nature’s affairs might not be a clever idea altogether. Especially because the Dead Sea has a past history of being highly unstable. The scientific analysis of the sediments from the bed of the Dead Sea, shows that the sea shrinked and expanded several times drastically in the past. While, almost 1,20,000 years ago, it had almost vanished, 25,000 years ago, in the midst of an ice age, it had reached its peak volume.

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