August 26, 2009—As the Dead Sea—really a giant freshwater lake—dramatically shrinks, Palestinian, Israeli, and Jordanian environmentalists have begun to devise ways to slow the decline.
© 2009 National Geographic (AP)
Unedited Transcript Praised far and wide for the reputed healing powers of its minerals and waters, the Dead Sea has been luring visitors for thousands of years.
But these days tourists see a very different lake from the one that others would have witnessed a few decades ago.
The sea sits in the lowest place on earth, and for years the water level was 1280 feet below sea level. However, in the last 40 years its dropped more than 80 feet.
Today, the Dead Sea continues to drop at the rate of about 1 meter per year.
This dramatic shortage is particularly evident at Israel's Ein Gedi Spa, on the southern shores of the Dead Sea.
SOUNDBITE (English) Alon Shachal, Ein Gedi Spa Manager: "The beach was here, and now (it's) far away. You can see it's more than one kilometre from here. In 30 years, the beach (will have) disappeared."
The need to change the status quo and find a solution to the Dead Sea's alarming shrinking has been a concern for years for 'Friends of the Earth Middle East', a non-governmental organization that brings together Palestinian, Israeli and Jordanian environmentalists.
SOUNDBITE (English) Iyad Aburdeieneh, Project Coordinator, Friends of the Earth Middle East Bethlehem: "After the '60's, we started to see a dramatic decrease in the surface area of the Dead Sea. And according to the different studies, in 50 years from now, at the same rate, which is 1 meter per year of drop in the surface level of the Dead Sea, means that this sea will not be the same. It will be more of a very small lake; not the same area that we have today.
His colleague Gidon Bromberg, from the Israeli office, points to what he says is the main reason for the Dead Sea shrinkage: the Jordan River no longer flows into the Dead Sea.
SOUNDBITE (English) Gidon Bromberg, Friends of the Earth Middle East Tel Aviv: "The Dead Sea has had its taps closed from both ends. From the North, in fact here in front of us is where the Jordan River should be flowing to the Dead Sea, but the Jordan River basically doesn't flow anymore. Ninety-five per cent of its waters have been diverted by Israel, by Syria, by Jordan, so that what's left in the Jordan River - a river holy to half of humanity - is little more than agriculture runoff, fish farm waste and, mostly, untreated sewage waters."
Bromberg says the rehabilitation of the Jordan River and a renewed influx of its waters into the Dead Sea is one of the keys to saving the lake.