Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Jordan to refill shrinking Dead Sea with salt water

Jordan is to refill the shrinking Dead Sea with salt water despite concerns from environmentalists about the threat to its unique eco-system.

Water levels in the lowest and saltiest body of water on the planet are falling by more than four feet a year, giving rise to quips that the Dead Sea is dying.

The government in Amman has said it is planning to extract more than 10 billion cubic feet a year from the Red Sea 110 miles to the south, feed most of it into a desalination plant to create drinking water, and send the salty waste-water left over to the Dead Sea by tunnel.

Similar plans are already the subject of a two-year feasibility study agreed by the Jordanians, Israelis and Palestinians in a rare example of cross-border Middle East co-operation.

But the Jordanians have decided they cannot wait any longer. "Jordan will start with the first phase with the help of donor countries and private investors," its minister for water, General Maysoun Zu'bi, said this week.

But environmentalists said the two years allotted to the feasibility study were already too short for a proper assessment of the risks posed to the Dead Sea's unique ecology. Environmentalists are concerned that the mixing of two different types of salt-water might have serious ecological consequences, including a build-up of algae.

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