01/06/2012 05:37

Green groups rally public to save sea ahead of cabinet vote on MK Dov Henin’s comprehensive Dead Sea rehabilitation bill.
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Ahead of the cabinet’s vote on Sunday about MK Dov Henin’s comprehensive Dead Sea rehabilitation bill, activist groups are banding together to promote an online petition that aims to secure the salty body’s future.

Launched about two weeks ago in a joint effort of global web activist group Avaaz, Adam Teva V’Din (Israel Union for Environmental Defense) and Friends of the Earth Middle East, the petitioners intend to rally the public to convince the relevant ministers to change their original votes, according to the organizers. As of press time, online petition signatures had reached 15,182.

“The vote on Sunday is a battle between public and environmental interest and the economic interest of tycoons,” said Raluca Ganea, a consultant from Avaaz. “Public pressure can change the results of the vote on Sunday.”

The bill, which was initially rejected by the cabinet by one vote about a month-and-a-half ago, was drafted by Adam Teva V’Din, and provides mechanisms for preserving the Dead Sea’s natural resources, curbing the plunging water levels in the northern basin and arranging a new management system to govern mineral extraction. This second vote comes after agreements that Israel Chemicals would fund 80 percent of the salt harvest in the southern basin, and a rise in the company’s royalties duties from 5 to 10%.

The comprehensive bill, however, would focus on a much wider scope and would require companies to repair all damage they have caused to the sea, at risk of losing their contracts if they do not repair the damage, according to its drafters.

“Support of the law from the ministers would testify to their real and uncompromising commitment to right past wrongs and to ensure the survival of the Dead Sea as a rare natural treasure,” Adam Teva V’Din Executive Director Amit Bracha said.’