Dead Sea
Hotel guests enjoying the rapidly disappearing Dead Sea. Photo by Michal Fattal
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A team of specialists has determined that the best way to prevent flooding in the southern Dead Sea is to harvest the salt from the industrial pool near the hotels.

The recommendation of the team, working for the Dead Sea Preservation Government Company, goes against the opinion of officials in the Finance Ministry who prefer another alternative under consideration: demolishing and rebuilding some of the hotels further inland to prevent their eventual flooding.

Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov is to decide next week which alternative to recommend to the government.

The hotels, in one of the country's most popular tourist areas, are in danger of flooding due to the rising water level of the Dead Sea Works' artificial pool. The pool, used to process the Dead Sea's minerals, is rising as a result of the accumulation of salt.

Under one plan the first row of hotels next to the pool would be demolished and rebuilt nearby. The other plan calls for the salt to be harvested and removed to the northern Dead Sea.

Tourism officials, environmental groups and the Dead Sea Works, the industry that processes the Dead Sea minerals, approve of the latter solution, while officials in the Finance Ministry believe that it would be cheaper in the long term to demolish and rebuild the hotels rather than remove huge amounts of salt every year.

The team, consisting of environmental planner Moti Kaplan and professors Alon Tal and Uri Mingelgrin, were asked to study the long- and short-term environmental implications of the alternatives.

According to the team, harvesting the salt is much better for the environment, especially because it is a long-term solution. If the hotels were moved, in 10 to 20 years, flooding would once again become a threat, and by 2035, it will no longer be possible to build dams to keep the water at bay; the salt would then still have to be harvested to solve the problem.

The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel said yesterday that it supports the conclusions of the team of experts and called on the Tourism Minister to adopt that alternative.