Friday, November 25, 2016


Here’s an article on latest developments at the Middle East and it’s not even about ISIS or the campaign to break it. Instead we now draw our attention towards a lake at the end of a flowing river, a lake that happens to be the deepest among the most hyper-saline lakes in the world – as in outrageously salty – as well as being located at the lowest dry point in the world below sea level. This is the Dead Sea, a body of water that has figured prominently in stories from the Bible, and now in news reports about it dying.

Wait, you ask. How is a “dead sea” dying? Well like the title states, the super-salty lake at the end of the Jordan River that forms a separation between Israel and Jordan is drying up at a ridiculously alarming rate according to CNN. Eco-Peace Middle East, a local environmentalist group, has observed that every year that passes has seen the Dead Sea shrinking in area by about 3.3 feet, largely due to human interference, in particular the Israeli Chemicals Dead Sea Works complex that has deliberately evaporated the southern end of the lake to get at its mineral resources. 

Due to its location at the world’s lowest dry point – in the Middle East, even – without any other water access, the only way the Dead Sea can maintain its water level is to rely on the Jordan River and its surrounding basin to bring both freshwater and rainfall runoff into its lakebed. This natural arrangement was thrown out of balance since the 1960s when Israel began siphoning off water from the river to fill its water supply needs. Things got worse with the Dead Sea Works, which kick-started the evaporation in earnest. In a startling example, a resort hotel that was built on the lakeside during the 1980s now offers a shuttle service for its customers in order to get to the majorly receded shoreline.

This is a crisis that has got the normally standoffish Israel and Jordan to take concerted action to resolve. Only in 2015, the two countries on either side of the Jordan basin and the Dead Sea have jointly signed a cooperative effort to the tune of $900 million that will hopefully see the saltwater lake and resort spa destination replenish its water levels to a more stable level. This involves digging a canal that would join the Dead Sea to the Red Sea further south, simultaneously relieving the evaporation rate and adding an additional supply of water (post-desalination) to Jordan and Israel.

The Dead Sea’s plight was most recently publicized, as told by The Jerusalem Post, by a group of 30 global swimmers who swam the lake from Jordan to Israel with full-coverage facemask snorkels, an experience that was still very irritating according to one of the participants, a sign of the dangers of the Dead Sea evaporation.

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