If the recent decision to harvest the salt in its pool in the hotel area of the Dead Sea is not implemented quickly, some of the hotels will have to be moved before they are flooded, the Dead Sea Works warned Wednesday.
The Dead Sea Works is concerned about the beating its image took following the pre-decision discussions of the best way to deal with the rising level of water in the pool, "when it was claimed that we are drying up the Dead Sea and are not willing to do what is necessary to prevent the flooding of the hotels," Noam Goldstein, the deputy managing director of the company, said.
Goldstein said the Dead Sea Works has decided to launch its first-ever campaign to explain that the southern part of the Dead Sea would have dried out because of the pumping of water for regional use and that it is unconnected to industrial activities. "Only thanks to the Dead Sea Works are there pools for tourists to use," he said.
The Dead Sea Works will be publishing ads and film clips that will say that the industry is what has brought life to the southern Dead Sea region.
According to various estimates, 65 percent of the decline in the level of the Dead Sea stems from utilization of water sources for drinking and agriculture that normally would have flowed into the salty lake - first and foremost, the Jordan River. The rest of the decline is because of Dead Sea water being drawn off into pools by the Dead Sea industries in Israel and Jordan.
When the ministers of environmental affairs and of tourism decided a few weeks ago that harvesting the salt from the bottom of the pool was the preferable way to deal with the threat of flooding, rather than moving the hotels, they also said the Dead Sea Works should pay for the harvest.
But according to Goldstein, when the Dead Sea Works was privatized and transfered to the ownership of the Ofer Brothers, no obligation was imposed on the company to pay for preventing the flooding of the hotels. "Although we are under no contractual obligation, we are prepared to participate in the matter because we are a responsible company," Goldstein said.
He added that representatives of the company were negotiating with the Finance Ministry to determine how much the Dead Sea Works would contribute toward harvesting the salt.
But Goldstein warned that the planning must already begin because in 2017, the level of the pool will for the first time be higher than the rooms of the nearest hotels. By that time it will no longer be possible to raise the berms around the pool, and if the salt is not harvested by then, there will be no choice but to move the hotels.
"We estimate that planning and approving the harvesting system will take two years, and building it will take another two years," Goldstein said. "It will take us another two years to stabilize the level of the Dead Sea after the harvest is begun. Therefore we must begin now, before it's too late."
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