The hotels in the Dead Sea's southern basin are in danger of being flooded by the end of the year, Haaretz has learned. The government will have to decide in the coming days whether to move them or build a lagoon in an industrial pond belonging to the Dead Sea Works.
The level of the Dead Sea Works' evaporation pond, also known as Pond No. 5, is constantly rising due to the accumulation of salt. The pond is now threatening to flood the hotels and all the infrastructure in the area in a few months.
In the next few days, a government company in charge of preventing floods in the area is scheduled to present the tourism minister with ways to address the problem.
The company is advancing an emergency plan for protecting the hotels, involving raising the ramparts around the pond, as it has done in the past, to prevent it from overflowing, while working on long-term solutions.
One of the plans developed by the Dead Sea Preservation Government Company is to move the hotels nearest the waterline.
Another option, dubbed "the lagoon alternative," suggests dividing the pond into two parts using a large landfill. One part will remain a lagoon next to the hotels, with salt mined from it, while the other part will be protected by landfill only.
Environmental groups and Interior Ministry planners support a third option, which involves mining all the salt in the pond, without building additional ramparts or lagoons.
However, the planners are having difficulty finding solutions that accommodate both industrial and tourism interests in the area. Dead Sea Works objects to any restrictions on the company's activities in the pond as a result of the emergency protective measures.
Dead Sea Works executives say the long-term plans ignore the company's needs and favor tourism interests. A lawyer for the company, Adi Kaplan, notes in the objections he submitted to the government that Dead Sea Works makes sure the entire Dead Sea area, including its tourism interests, can exist and make a decent living.
The Dead Sea Hotels Association and the environmental organization Adam Teva V'Din are demanding that the government refrain from emergency protective measures that would harm the hotels, such as raising the ponds' protective walls again. The hotel association has petitioned the High Court of Justice against approving the measures, demanding that the state provide a long-term solution right now.
Adam Teva V'Din is demanding that the authorities consider the possibility of changing the Dead Sea Works' technologies or activities as well, rather than only considering that the dikes be raised while continuing the exploitation of Dead Sea resources.
The hotel and environmental groups want the master plan to be taken into consideration; that plan stipulates changing the region's balance in favor of tourism and nature preservation.
The environmentalists fear that raising the dikes and building a lagoon would require mining and quarrying works in the region's streams to provide materials for the dikes. This would seriously damage the landscape, streams and scenery in the Masada area, one of Israel's most important tourism sites.
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