Introduction
The Dead Sea, a unique salt-lake, is the lowest point on the surface of the planet, but is dropping by more than 1 meter every year!
BACKGROUND
Lying in the heart of the Syrian-African rift valley at the southern outlet of the Jordan River, the Dead Sea region is internationally known for its unique geographical, biological, and historical characteristics. It is the lowest point on earth and world's saltiest large water body. The Basin's historical features include Jesus's baptism site, Masada, and Mt. Nebo, among many, many others.

Despite the lack of wildlife in the Dead Sea itself, the region around it is blessed with unique flora and fauna, including endangered species such as ibex, leopards, and hyrax. The wetlands surrounding the Sea support several species, such as the indigenous "Dead Sea Sparrow", and serve as important resting and breeding sites for millions of migratory birds crossing between Europe and Africa each year.

Together with its ecological interest, the Dead Sea is rich in a wide variety of minerals, making it an attraction for millions of visitors wishing to take advantage of the therapeutic qualities of its minerals.

"DEVELOPMENT" IN THE DEAD SEA REGION
Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians are currently planning accelerated development around the Dead Sea, which would result in massive construction of new hotels, expansion of industry and enhanced mineral and water extraction. The various new endeavors currently proposed for the region demonstrate not only woefully insufficient consideration of even basic ecological principles, but also a lack of basic coordination between sectors and between the three relevant governmental authorities.
See also Red Dead Conduit.

A REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN FOR THE DEAD SEA BASIN
In response to massive and uncoordinated development proposed for the Dead Sea basin, FoEME calls for the need to create a comprehensive integrated regional development plan for the entire Dead Sea region. The plan should be a collaborative effort with participation of all relevant riparian stakeholders, Israeli, Jordanian, and Palestinian, as well international interests. As part of its efforts to ensure the long-term environmental integrity of the area, FoEME is promoting registration of the Dead Sea basin with UNESCO, as either a Biosphere Reserve or a World Heritage Site.

THE DRYING UP OF THE DEAD SEA
Helping the Dead Sea "live" up to its name
The Dead Sea is drying up at an alarming rate. Far and away the biggest cause of the rapid disappearance of the Dead Sea is the lack of water coming into it from its traditional sources: the Jordan River and various side wadis (tributaries). Construction of dams, storage reservoirs, and pipelines has greatly reduced water inflows to the Dead Sea. While much of this water is being used by the Israelis, Jordanians, and Palestinians for basic domestic consumption, most goes towards highly subsidized and inefficient agriculture.

The effects of human intervention in the region include:

- The Dead Sea has already lost over 1/3 of its surface area.
- The Sea level has fallen over 25 meters since development of the region started early this century. The Sea's depth is continuing to drop by over 1 meter per year.
- The shoreline in expected to drop from -411 meters to -430 meters by the year 2020.
- Water inflow levels have already been reduced to just 5% of its original volume, with annual surface inflows in the future predicted to only further decrease.
- The fall in the level of the Sea has lowered water tables in surrounding areas causing a drying up of micro-eco-systems and leading to land-subsidence - sink wholes.
- On the western shores of the Dead Sea 2000 sink wholes have been identified.

TOURISM DEVELOPMENT
Loving the Sea to Death
In order to capitalize on the attractiveness of the Dead Sea region to visitors, massive and uncoordinated over-development of the basin is in the works.

The proposed building of hotels along the central shorelines of the Dead Sea pose a severe threat to the natural and cultural resources of this ecologically sensitive area. Additional construction of water parks, shopping malls, and urban facilities for the new influx of employees will all place further pressures on the land and water resources. Untreated sewage into the Dead Sea from these surrounding areas are projected to increase as well- possibly from 15 million cubic meters (mcm) to as much as 35-50 mcm.

MINERAL EXTRACTION
Intentionally Drying Up What's Left
The mineral extraction activities of the Dead Sea Works and the Arab Potash Company operating at the southern end of the Dead Sea have been major players in affecting the environmental stability of the region.

- Industrial solar evaporation ponds are responsible for 30 -40% of the total evaporation of Dead Sea waters
- The industry has a huge impact on the surrounding landscape: in terms of excavation of land and disposal of unwanted minerals.
- Industry has negative affects on air quality in the region by emitting dust and combustion gases. The burning of heavy fuel oil in power and steam generators emits gasses of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitric oxide.

These industrial complexes, boiler and dryer stacks, and extensive mining in the region have also succeeded in causing major alterations to the landscape scenery and breaking up the natural skyline.

INTERFERENCE WITH THE REGION'S FLORA AND FAUNA
At the crossroads of Asia, Africa, and Europe, the Dead Sea region is composed of rich and diverse eco-systems that act as homes to many of rare species. The effects that this development is having on the precious flora and fauna of the region is overwhelming. Human development has been damaging to the food supply and mating and migration patterns of many plant and animal species.
Much of the scientific information regarding the region's natural resources is lacking, and new findings are still being discovered.

PRESERVING THE REGION
To succeed in preserving the region, economic, social and political considerations on all sides must be adapted so that they are in line with environmental considerations. Until all parties begin to prioritize and correctly plan development together, we cannot begin to save the Dead Sea region from degradation, and development may destroy the very reasons that bring people to the Dead Sea in the first place. The first step is the recognition of the seriousness of the issues facing the region by the respective stakeholders, including local residents, visitors, businesses, and governments at the national and local levels.

FoEME is calling for several immediate measures to help preserve the Dead Sea Basin:

- LIMIT TOURISM DEVELOPMENT to the Northern and Southern stretches, leaving the ecologically sensitive middle corridors on both the Eastern and Western shores preserved. At the same time, Eco-sensitive tourism development, taking advantage of the region's unique features should be encouraged as a counter to other forms of development.

- Establish the entire Dead Sea Basin as a MAN AND BIOSPHERE RESERVE (MAB) or World Heritage Site, whereby governments take on the obligation of developing a plan for the sustainable development of the region, and in return can be eligible for technical and financial assistance from UNESCO for preservation efforts. See UNESCO - Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) and UNESCO World Heritage for more details.

- URGENTLY DEVELOP A JOINT MANAGEMENT PLAN FOR THE REGION, which would take into consideration both carrying capacities and rational target development rates.


(Choose Photo Album entitled "Dead Sea")
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