The Dead Sea is a mystical and magical place and one that has real-life benefits- like its greasy, black mineral mud that visitors like to smother all over their bodies. Researchers say the first hominids crossed by way of the Dead Sea corridor from Africa as they migrated around the world; some say it was Cleopatra's best beauty secret. Even though the Dead Sea sustains no or little life (there are some bacteria who are thriving there apparently) the ecosystem around it is anything but dead. The skies are teeming with migratory birds on their way to Africa from Europe and vice versa; special animals such as bats, wild cats and hyrax find refuge in its surrounding mountains. Over the last 40 years, exploitation of the Dead Sea has happened at an unprecedented rate, due to (ahem) human exploitation. See Reuters story. Israelis and Jordanians have been tapping into the Kinneret ("Sea of Galilee") and the Yarmuk River, meaning less water makes it to the Dead Sea; lack of freshwater entering the Dead Sea combined with mineral extraction on its south shores has led to about a one meter drop in water of the Dead Sea per year.
Can humans turn the shrinking Dead Sea around?
Through the Minerva Institute for Dead Sea Research, scientists are devoting their lives to finding sustainable solutions to reviving the dead parts of the Dead Sea. Some groups are suggesting to solve the problem with a $5 billion canal that would stretch from the Red Sea. A recent Reuters article says that scientists wonder whether such a canal would really be beneficial for the environment. The Dead Sea's unique make-up would be changed forever by introducing sea water into a body that has only ever been fed by fresh water. "The cost of the damage that would be caused to the environment may be greater than any possible benefits," said local geologist Eli Raz. "The best plan for the Dead Sea is to let the Jordan river flow again, this is its natural state." But the chances of that happening are next to nothing given the reliance of the region's countries on the Jordan's water, the article points out.
Environmentalists are pushing for the Dead Sea to be declared a World Heritage Site by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, hoping this will force surrounding countries to come up with a plan. And unless we can get Daryl Hannah over here to chain herself to a salt block (to try and help at least), we may need to do it on our own. To find out more about international environmental projects, contact Minerva and Friends of the Earth. ::Reuters