Dead Sea
Hotel guests enjoying the rapidly disappearing Dead Sea. Photo by Michal Fattal
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About two weeks before Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov announces his recommendations for protecting southern Dead Sea hotels from flooding, he still hasn't seen the environmental impact statement on the matter.

Meanwhile, senior officials at the Environmental Protection Ministry who have asked to see the report, being written by a government company, have been turned down after being told the document was not yet ready.

The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel demanded a few days ago that Misezhnikov not make any decision on the matter until he sees the report.

The SPNI says that to the best of its knowledge, the report, prepared by the Dead Sea Preservation Government Company, has been finished.

The company was set up to address flooding around the southern Dead Sea.

The hotels are at risk because salt is accumulating in the industrial pool next to them. One suggestion, to move the first row of hotels to a nearby site, is reportedly supported by some officials in the Dead Sea Preservation Government Company and in the Finance Ministry, claiming it is cheaper.

However, environmentalists and the Dead Sea Hotel Association are said to support harvesting the salt and returning it to the sea. They say this long-term solution would damage the landscape less.

The head of the team appointed by the government company to examine alternatives is Prof. Alon Tal of Ben-Gurion University. Also on the team is Prof. Uri Mingelgrin, a former chief scientist at the Environmental Protection ministry, and environmental planner Moti Kaplan.

At a meeting two weeks ago between, officials from the Dead Sea Preservation Government Company told the Environmental Protection Ministry that the report was not ready.

Yesterday the team preparing the report declined to comment on the matter.

According to Nir Papai, deputy director of the SPNI, "We know the team submitted its report a number of times and the Dead Sea Preservation Government Company asked that it be corrected." Papai said the team apparently did not accept the Dead Sea agency's positions.

Papai said the fact the report had not yet been published reflected "improper intervention in the decision-making process" and said the SPNI would take legal steps to ensure that it was published.

The Dead Sea Preservation Government Company said the team preparing the report "does not receive directives or instructions from the company." It added that the team's final report has not been completed but that the company had received early chapters and passed them on to the environmental protection and tourism ministries.

The company said the team has been in touch with all relevant officials, including the Environmental Protection Ministry, and that it will publish the report in full when it finishes it.