Israeli green groups push bill to protect Dead Sea ahead of New 7 Wonders competition – Haaretz

‘Protection and Rehabilitation of the Dead Sea’ bill drafted by Israel Union for Environmental Defense, submitted to Knesset by MKs headed by Dov Khenin (Hadash).
By Zafrir Rinat

This weekend, the winners of the worldwide New 7 Wonders of Nature competition will be announced, and Israel is rooting for the Dead Sea to be on the list. But Israeli environmentalists hope the government won’t be content with the mere honor, and will instead actually save the sea by supporting a bill to regulate the pumping of water from its sources and construction of infrastructure on its beaches.

The bill, entitled “Protection and Rehabilitation of the Dead Sea,” was drafted by the Israel Union for Environmental Defense (Adam, Teva V’Din) and submitted to the Knesset by a group of MKs headed by Dov Khenin (Hadash). The Ministerial Committee for Legislation is due to convene next week to decide whether the government will back it.
Dead sea – Emil Salman – November 8 2011

Kids floating in the Dead Sea, November 8, 2011.
Photo by: Emil Salman

Over the past few days, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other ministers have urged the public to send SMS votes for the Dead Sea to the competition’s organizers, while also promising to protect the area. Nonetheless, the government’s position on the proposed law is as yet unknown. On Tuesday, the Tourism Ministry said it is still reviewing the subject.

The Dead Sea has been drying up in recent years due to the pumping of water from its sources for use in Israel and neighboring countries. The sea has been falling by approximately one meter a year, and so far, nothing has been done to prevent the water level from dropping further. For the past two years, the World Bank has been studying the feasibility of a plan to send water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea via Jordan.

The IUED’s bill would instruct the environmental protection minister to prepare a plan within one year to replenish the sea’s northern basin. The plan would guarantee the flow of at least 235 cubic meters a year through the Jordan River to the Dead Sea.

The bill would also require Dead Sea Works, which holds rights to the southern part of the sea, to submit a request to the minister at the end of each year specifying how much water it wants to draw from the sea’s northern basin for use in the industrial pools it maintains at the southern end. The minister would then determine, together with the Water Authority, the maximum amount it could pump.

Nature’s wonder – Jordan Times (editorial)

There are several reasons why the Dead Sea should be voted among the New 7 Wonders of Nature.

This body of water was named many things throughout history: from the Sea of Salt and the Sea of Sodom and Gomorrah to the Sea of Lot, the Sea of Araba and even the Devil’s Sea during the Crusaders’ time.

More impressive than the many names given to it is the fact that it is located at the lowest point on Earth, about 400 metres below sea level, and that it has a rich history that dates back to periods that preceded biblical times.

The Dead Sea is shared by Jordan, Israel and Palestine, one common point that could, with political will, be strengthened by a durable and just solution to the century-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The physical characteristics of this sea are also unmatched. Its salinity – the reason for lack of life in the sea, which gave it its name – stands at about 26-35 per cent, giving it miraculous curative powers.

Winning the contest among the 27 finalists could give a big boost to the place. Besides making it better known to tourists from all over the world, it could also rally regional and international support for efforts to save it from extinction due to the annual loss of about seven million tonnes of water by evaporation and the diminishing amount of water from the tributaries, particularly the Jordan River.

There are major projects being considered to save the Dead Sea and, in the process, generate electricity that could be used to desalinate the Red Sea water, thus helping end the scarcity of this precious element.

The results of the voting will be made public today. Whatever they are, there is no doubt that the Dead Sea is indeed a wonder of nature.

New 7 Wonders of Nature to be announced today – Jordan Times

By Khetam Malkawi

AMMAN – Voting for the Dead Sea to be one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature is a “duty” that all Jordanians should contribute to, members of the public interviewed by The Jordan Times said on Thursday.

“I voted for the Dead Sea without even asking how I am going to benefit personally if it wins,” said Duaa Tayseer. “It is our responsibility as Jordanians to put the Dead Sea on the natural wonders list.”

She noted that all members of her family voted both on the New7Wonders website and via SMS. Firs Hadi agreed with Tayseer, but remarked that the campaign urging people to vote for the Dead Sea was not as extensive as the one launched for Petra when it was elected for inclusion on the list of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.

“I voted for the Dead Sea as I believe it’s a duty to do so. However, I only heard about this competition two weeks ago and I think the campaign should have been promoted more strongly through the media or at least the use of billboards,” Hadi told The Jordan Times over the phone yesterday.

Others said they believe that if the Dead Sea wins a spot on the list, this will attract more tourists to the Kingdom.

“I consider the Dead Sea one of the world’s natural wonders whether people vote for it or not,” Mohammad Sarsak said, adding that most of the people he has met while travelling abroad said they would like to visit the Dead Sea.

However, he noted, the Dead Sea is not being exploited to its full potential as a tourist attraction.

“We all know about the benefits of the Dead Sea salts and mud, and if these products are promoted well, the Dead Sea will become the main tourist attraction in Jordan,” Sarsak added.

Khalil Hamed, a consultant in neuro-musculoskeletal disorders and a member of the Jordanian Society of Physical Medicine, Arthritis and Rehabilitation, commented that the Dead Sea could also be turned into a therapeutic centre.

He pointed to studies showing that Dead Sea salts can be effective in balneotherapy (treatment by bathing) of rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and common skin conditions such as acne.

According to Hamed, the high concentration of bromide and magnesium in the Dead Sea salt also makes it useful in treating allergies.

Voting for the New Seven Wonders of Nature will conclude today (Friday) at 11:11am GMT (1:11pm local time).

The New7Wonders initiative announced on Thursday that it has set up an international SMS voting line which is available worldwide.

“Voters can now send their chosen finalist keyword to one number, accessible worldwide from most countries and mobile operators,” the company said in a press release sent to The Jordan Times.

It said voters can send their vote by SMS text to +2489 88888 – and “the cost is just the same as for any international text message”.

People can also vote by sending the words “Dead Sea” in a text message to 94089 or by visiting

The Dead Sea is competing against 27 other finalists to be one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature, according to its website.

Last Sunday, when there were five days left to go, the organisers released a list of the top 10 finalists.

In alphabetical order they were: the Dead Sea, the Grand Canyon, the Great Barrier Reef, Halong Bay, Jeita Grotto, Jeju Island, Komodo Island, Puerto Princesa Underground River, Sundarbans and Vesuvius.

“Clearly Asian finalists are strong at this stage, reflecting the way the world is evolving east, and at the same time I know the actual top seven will change in the coming days. We remain excited and intrigued to see who will emerge as the provisional New7Wonders of Nature on 11/11/11,” Bernard Weber, president and founder of New7Wonders said at the time, commenting on the top 10.

Dead Sea awareness – Jerusalem Post (editorial)

While raising world consciousness about the Dead Sea’s plight is an important and noble goal that should be pursued, there are no easy solutions.
Talkbacks (2)

Time is running out. On Friday, November 11 at 11:11 p.m. Zurich time (1:11p.m. Israel time) the New7Wonders of the World vote will draw to a close.

Our very own Dead Sea is one of the 28 finalists that stand a chance of being chosen – via Internet ( or SMS (texting “Dead Sea” to 2244) – as one of the world’s most amazing natural sites.

Organized by the Zurich-based New7Wonders Foundation, the goal of the campaign is to raise world awareness for natural wonders. Bernard Weber, the founder of New7Wonders, is quoted on the foundation’s website as saying that he was motivated by the desire “to find an idea, a word or a simple concept that everyone on our planet would immediately understand and be motivated to act upon.”

Weber’s slogan for the campaign is: “If we want to save anything, we first need to truly appreciate it.”

The message is eminently applicable to the Dead Sea.

Famous for its therapeutic minerals and for the way people float in it like corks, the Dead Sea is evaporating away at a rate of one meter a year.

Fresh water that once ran from the Jordan River to replenish the Dead Sea is now siphoned off to provide increasingly scarce drinking water for the rapidly growing Syrians, Jordanians, Palestinians and Israelis.

Mineral extraction, on both the Israeli and Jordanian sides of the Dead Sea, which includes accelerated evaporation, is also adding to the shrinkage.

Studies suggest that if nothing is done, the world’s lowest body of water will stabilize at about 100 meters lower than it is now. Nevertheless, that would spell disaster for the environment, and for the tourist resorts on its shores.

That’s where New7Wonders comes in.

Worldwide appreciation for the Dead Sea, as reflected in a successful voting turnout, will increase the motivation to save it. Unfortunately, there are no easy solutions.

One of the more grandiose ideas put forward is building a 200 kilometer-long conduit to bring water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. Some would replenish and stabilize the Dead Sea. The rest would be desalinated – using the energy gained from its downhill run to the lowest point on the surface of the earth – to supply fresh water, particularly to Jordan, one of the most water-poor nations in the world.

However, if this multi-billion-dollar project, known as the Red-Dead Canal, is implemented it might yield a paradoxical result: While attempting to preserve the Dead Sea, we might end up fundamentally, and irreversibly, changing it beyond recognition.

The Red Sea is briny and so chemically different from the fresh water that has been replenishing the Dead Sea for thousands of years that it might radically transform the Dead Sea’s consistency and composition.

Research by the Geological Survey of Israel suggests that sea brine added to the hyper-salty, denser Dead Sea will float on the surface, mixing in only over years, or decades.

Algal blooms resulting from the mixture could turn the water from blue to reddish-brown. What draws tourists and admirers would be lost.

A World Bank feasibility study that cost millions of dollars and has been conducted over the past several years will have the final say. It has already been submitted and is expected to be published soon.

Further complicating matters is our relations with Jordan.

Amman was miserably uncooperative in a recent attempt to get the Dead Sea listed with UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. If the two countries could not work together on the UNESCO bid, how will they manage to cooperate in a multi-billion-dollar project? If the Dead Sea is indeed voted one of the New7Wonders, many positive benefits could result.

Indeed, after the ancient ruins of Petra in Jordan won the title in 2007, tourist visits nearly tripled.

However, while raising world consciousness about the Dead Sea’s plight is an important and noble goal that should be pursued, there are no easy solutions.