THE DEAD SEA, Aug 28 : On the Dead Sea's coast in the occupied West Bank, Israeli settlers, Palestinians and tourists make the downhill trek from the former waterline to its new resting place.
The Dead Sea, a unique body of water marked by mineral-rich, unusually salty water - nearly 10 times saltier than the world's oceans - is dying. Its water level is dropping by roughly one metre each year. "We think that the current situation is an ecological disaster," said Gidon Bromberg, director of EcoPeace Middle East (EPME), an organisation that brings together Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian environmentalists to protect their shared environmental heritage.
"It's unacceptable: The unique ecosystem is in severe danger, threatening biodiversity, and you see dramatic sinkholes opening up along the shore," Bromberg said, referring to the large, unpredictable cavities that have appeared recently. Some are so cavernous that they swallow entire structures.
According to Bromberg, the two main reasons for the dropping water level are mineral extraction by Israeli and Jordanian companies in the artificially shallow southern basin, and the fact that 95 percent of the Jordan River - the Dead Sea's main source of replenishing water - is being diverted. The river used to provide 1,350 million cubic metres of water each year (mcm), but that flow has dwindled to just 20 mcm. ?AL JAZEERA