Hotels Dead Sea
Hotels along the southern Dead Sea. Photo by Michal Fattal
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The Dead Sea region is beset by ecological problems caused partly by neglect and partly by exploitation of its mineral wealth. So the company responsible for the latter should pay the bill, two ministers said yesterday.

Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov and Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan promised to present a comprehensive plan to help the Dead Sea and rescue the hotels on its southern shores from inundation in three weeks.

Meanwhile, though, the two are adamant that the best solution for both the sea and the hotels is to dredge salt from the rising bed of the sea's southern half, send it by conveyor to the northern half's sinking bed, and have Israel Chemicals subsidiary Dead Sea Works foot the bill.

The part of the Dead Sea that Israelis think of as its southern half is actually a gigantic evaporation pool from which DSW extracts potash and other minerals, most of which are exported. The company brings mineral-rich water from the north part of the sea to the south by canal.

The snag is that the water also bears silt. This silt builds up in the southern part, raising the water level. The hotels would have been inundated long since if not for giant earth berms that bear environmental costs of their own.

Dredging the seabed would cost billions of shekels. The Finance Ministry therefore argues for a cheaper solution: Demolish the hotels and rebuild them somewhere else.

But experts say that would merely delay the problem: The water in the giant pool will continue to rise, and will engulf the newly built hotels some time in the future.

Misezhnikov and Erdan also proposed establishing a NIS 750 million fund to develop the Dead Sea region and build more hotels.

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