By SHARON UDASIN 02/14/2012 04:14
Groups decry five-year, NIS 830 million budget for Dead Sea environmental protection and tourism.
Dead Sea’s Ein Bokek By Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post

After the cabinet unanimously approved a five-year, NIS 830 million budget for Dead Sea environmental protection and tourism on Sunday, green groups were not wholly satisfied with the decision.

Rehabilitation will occur throughout the northern and southern basins, with particular efforts concentrated on renovating existing infrastructure at Ein Bokek and Hamei Zohar, as well as other improvements to various atrisk areas. The Tourism Ministry will invest about NIS 700 million in the project, while the Environmental Protection Ministry will invest about NIS 130 million.

‘Dead Sea almost dried up 125,000 years ago’

“For the first time, after years in which the Dead Sea was used only as a source of resource exploitation, the state understands that natural resources are public property,” Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan said in a statement released by his office.

Green groups, however, feel that the newly approved budget is insufficient to cover the Dead Sea’s needs.

“Only the comprehensive bill to restore the Dead Sea will provide a real solution to the worsening condition of the Dead Sea,” said Amit Bracha, executive director of Adam Teva V’Din (Israel Union for Environmental Defense).

Bracha was referring to a broad Dead Sea rehabilitation plan drafted by his organization and proposed formally by MK Dov Henin (Hadash), which was rejected twice by the cabinet in the past few months. This bill, according to Bracha, would limit the amount of water that Dead Sea Works would be able to pump in the future and determine policies for Israel’s contribution to everdwindling water levels.

“Without the approval and implementation of this bill, it will be impossible to rehabilitate the Dead Sea and safeguard it for future generations – not by means of the amount of money the government approved [on Sunday], which is intended primarily for tourism purposes,” Bracha said.

Gidon Bromberg, Israel director of Friends of the Earth Middle East, echoed Bracha’s sentiments, equating the cabinet decision to providing “aspirin to a cancer patient” and calling investments in tourism “populist” and unhelpful to the Dead Sea’s declining situation.

Ben Hartman contributed to this report.

Israeli cabinet okays NIS 830m for Dead Sea tourism, environment – Haaretz

Government due to make another major decision concerning a canal to be dug to the Dead Sea from the Red Sea, in a project dubbed the ‘Red-Dead canal.’
By Zafrir Rinat

Some NIS 830 million will be allocated toward developing tourism facilities at the Dead Sea, and repairing environmental damage caused in the area over the years, the cabinet decided on Sunday.

The funds earmarked for these purposes, as part of a proposal initiated by Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov and Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, will be allocated over the next five years.
Dead Sea – Michal Fattal – 13022012

Women bathing in the Dead Sea last month.
Photo by: Michal Fattal

For its part, the Tourism Ministry will invest NIS 700 million in development schemes, of which NIS 434 million will be dispersed as grants to finance various initiatives, with the aim being the addition of 2,700 hotel rooms to the Dead Sea area.

The remaining NIS 130 million will go toward rehabilitating the local environment, under the auspices of the Environmental Protection Ministry. This will include dealing with the treacherous sinkholes that have developed due to the drop in the Dead Sea’s level. Some funds may also be invested in shoring up the streambeds and springs that have dried up in recent years.

“This government is correcting injustices of many years’ standing in relation to the Dead Sea, which until now was viewed primarily as a source of raw materials for industry,” said Erdan. “Now we are internalizing the fact that we’re talking about a unique natural resource.”

Green groups, however, were not overly excited about Sunday’s decision.

“This plan won’t save the Dead Sea, and is akin to giving Acamol to a cancer patient,” said Gideon Bromberg, CEO of Friends of the Earth-Middle East. “Rather than investing in Sunday’s industries, there should be investments in developing new technologies that would replace the factories’ evaporation pools, which are contributing significantly to the drop in the sea’s level.”

Sunday’s cabinet decision follows an agreement struck between the government and Dead Sea Works to harvest salt from the sea’s southern basin, with Dead Sea Works picking up most of the tab. The harvesting process will lower the seabed of the industrial basin, which has accumulated salt from the firm’s industrial work, thus raising the level of the water to a point where it threatens to flood the area’s hotels.

The government is due to make another major decision soon concerning another initiative involving the Dead Sea: It involves digging a canal from the Red Sea, as part of a project dubbed the “Red-Dead canal,” that will bring water into the Dead Sea’s main basin and stop the drop in the water level there. The World Bank is due to shortly publish the findings of a feasibility study on the project, which was requested by Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians.