Revenge Politics And The Dying Dead Sea

The Dead Sea is dying because of the revenge economics and politics of governments in the Middle East.

The lowest point on Earth is moving forever downwards as the harsh desert sun evaporates the dwindling waters of the sea.

The Dead Sea was created when the water levels of the Red Sea sank thousands of years ago.

The two were once joined and the River Jordan flowed through the Dead Sea into the Red Sea.

Then the climate and geography changed and water levels dropped, leaving a land bridge between the two.

In recent decades, the water level in the Dead Sea has retreated by an average three feet a year leaving parched, salty margins and dangerous sink holes.

Drought and starvation

The falling water level is partly to do with evaporation but more to do with the Israelis and Syrians waging a battle to control the waters of the Jordan.

The confrontation starts north of the Sea of Galilee where the River Yarmouk in Syria flows into the Jordan.

The Syrians have 40 dams across the river diverting precious water into irrigation systems and to provide drinking water.

Without the water, the Syrians say people would face a drought and starve.

That’s fine, but all they have done with their dams is move the problem down river to Israel, where the Jordan starts in the Sea of Galilee.

Israel has also built a dam and irrigation system for the same reasons as the Syrians.

Jordan slowed to a trickle

Now the once mighty Jordan, said to be 30 yards wide in the late 1800s has slowed to a trickle which can almost be jumped in Jordan.

This has reduced the flow of water into the Dead Sea, which has no exit for the river.

Now the waters are not replenishing the Dead Sea, evaporation is taking a toil under the scorching desert sun.

Some Jordanians feel Syria is punishing them for striking a peace deal with Israel in 1994.

A positive is evaporation basins around the Dead Sea allow phosphates and other chemicals to be extracted from the waters, but the negative is this sees more water disappear.

“You have to ask, what we are trying to preserve,” said Dr Ittai Gavrieli, a scientist from the Geological Survey of Israel.

“Are we trying to raise the water level? If so, why? Just for tourists? The cost of desalinating more water to replenish the Jordan would be massive and the plants would have an impact on the environment as well.”