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Jordan and Israel Seek to Help Dead Sea

2002-9-19

This is the VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

Israel and Jordan recently announced that they would worktogether to help save the Dead Sea from shrinking. Governmentofficials said the joint project would help the sea, protect thearea's unusual wildlife and increase the number of visitors to thearea. The announcement was made during the United Nations WorldSummit on Sustainable Development earlier this month inJohannesburg, South Africa.

The Dead Sea is on the borderbetween Israel and Jordan. It is three-hundred-sixty-five metersbelow sea level. That is the lowest point on Earth. The Dead Sea isthe saltiest large body of water in the world.

The area around the Dead Sea has ancient places that areimportant to Jews, Christians and Muslims. Minerals in the Dead Seaare used for health treatments. The strange beauty of the sea bringsmany visitors to the area.

But the Dead Sea is shrinking by almost one meter each year. Mostof the water that flows into the Dead Sea comes from the JordanRiver. However, water flowing from the Jordan River has beenredirected for other uses in the area. Officials say within the nextfifty years, the Dead Sea could shrink to less than half of itscurrent size.

To prevent that, Israel and Jordan plan to build a pipeline morethan three-hundred kilometers long. The pipeline would pump waterfrom the Red Sea through both countries into the Dead Sea. After thepipeline is built, the officials hope to build a canal and a saltremoval system that will provide fresh water to Jordanians, Israelisand Palestinians.

The pipeline will take at least three years to build. The projectwill cost as much as one-thousand-million dollars. Israel and Jordanhope to pay for it with help from other countries. The project isexpected to begin after a nine-month study is completed.

Israel and Jordan had hoped to cooperate closely on a number ofissues after they signed a peace agreement in nineteen-ninety-four.However, tensions have increased between them since the currentPalestinian uprising began two years ago.

Officials from Israel and Jordan described the water project as amajor step forward. Experts say the agreement sends a message thatthe environment, ecology and nature are more important than bordersor political conflicts.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written byCynthia Kirk.