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Bringing Dead Sea to life

Water, it seems, can bring even the most bitter of combatants to the discussion table. Maybe it is high time the world tried it out as a tool for peace. A strong case can be built around the efforts by Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, who have come together in an effort to revive the threatened Dead Sea.

india Updated: Jun 13, 2003 12:00 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority will discuss a scheme to save the Dead Sea from dying completely, a Palestinian cabinet minister said after talks with senior Jordanian officials here on Monday.

Nabil Kassis told the state Petra news agency the talks will take place on the sidelines of an extraordinary meeting of the World Economic Forum which Jordan will host on the shores of the Dead Sea on June 21-23.

"The Palestinians will participate in talks on a scheme to protect the Dead Sea during the World Economic Forum, along with representatives of the World Bank and Israel which also has shores on the Dead Sea," Kassis said.

He was speaking following talks in Amman with Jordan's Planning Minister Bassem Awadallah and Water Minister Hazem Nasser that focused on a plan to save the Dead Sea's water level from decreasing.

"We discussed several issues of common interest and the latest developments concerning a project to save the Dead Sea which could be submitted during the forthcoming World Economic Forum," Awadallah was quoted as saying by Petra.

"The aim of this presentation would be to raise greater world awareness concerning the environmental catastrophe that threatens this historic site because of decreasing water levels," Awadallah said.

He said that the World Bank had just finished a draft report concerning the status of the Dead Sea.

Environmental experts have warned repeatedly that the water levels of the Dead Sea were dropping fast as a result of the diversion of the Jordan River water for irrigation. The river is the sea's main source of replenishment.

The trend threatens to reduce the sea -- which lies at the lowest point in the world at 400 meters below sea level -- to nothing more than a salt quarry.

The Dead Sea is popular with tourists, who come to bathe in its waters and cover themselves with its mineral rich mud.

In August Jordan's water minister, Nasser, said the kingdom was hoping to save the Dead Sea from dying completely by channelling in water through a canal from its large and less-salty southern cousin, the Red Sea.

Jordan was hoping to present the project at the Earth Summit which was held in Johannesburg in September, but it met with opposition from Egypt and other Arab countries.

First Published: Jun 10, 2003 10:52 IST