Invisible Dust

London | Sunday 17 February
Pollution level: Moderate

Plans to use the Red Sea to replenish the shrinking Dead Sea


According to a report commissioned by the World Bank, the Dead Sea water level has been declining at a rate of more than a meter per year, with its surface area shrinking from 960 square kilometers to 620 sq. km. in the past 50 years.

The report published earlier in February said an underground pipeline would be the best way to channel water from the Red Sea some 180 km (112 miles) north to replenish the Dead Sea, which is located at the lowest spot on earth.

While there may be environmental and social impacts on the region, a trilateral plan to construct a 180-kilometer pipeline transporting water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea is feasible, a World Bank study has determined.

The main objectives of building a water conduit from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea would be saving the latter from environmental degradation, desalinating water, generating hydroelectricity at affordable prices and generating “a symbol of peace in the Middle East,” according to the feasibility study.

Environmental groups have raised concerns about the report and warned of adverse effects, such as the chance of new algae and mineral deposits changing the colour of the Dead Sea or underground fresh water springs becoming polluted with seawater.

The World Bank said it found that such negative impacts could be “mitigated and managed to an acceptable level”.

Because of the water current created with the drop in elevation, it would even be possible to construct desalination and hydroelectric plants along the route, the World Bank said.

The Dead Sea, technically a lake, is a tourist spot famous for its salty waters that allow bathers to float. Its mineral rich mud, used for skin treatment, is sold around the world.

But as the population increased in the region, water was diverted from the Jordan river, the Dead Sea’s natural water source, for drinking and agriculture.

The shoreline has in turn shrunk at an accelerating pace, leaving behind a rocky, desert beach full of dangerous sink holes. Factories extracting minerals from the lake have also caused the shift in coastline.

The Red Sea-Dead Sea conduit would run through Jordan and cost about $10 billion, conveying up to 2 billion cubic meters of water a year, according the report. Projects of similar scope have been built in South Africa, Brazil and at the Central Arizona Project in the United States.

If the project is approved, it could be about 10 years before work actually begins, the World Bank said.


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