Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov is hoping the government adopts his plan to keep the Dead Sea from dying.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is scheduled to tour the region Monday together with Misezhnikov and the ministers of Finance, Interior, Justice and Environmental Protection. The heads of the regional councils in the Dead Sea region are also expected to join the tour, which will include an event to promote the candidacy of the Dead Sea in the finals of the New7Wonders of Nature online campaign, as well as the launch of a special stamp.
The Dead Sea is a finalist in the New7Wonders of Nature competition, which will conclude this year on November 11. It is believed the winning seven finalists must secure at least 300 to 400 million votes. There will also be a debate on the alternatives to prevent flooding of Pool Number 5 and to discuss the development of the Dead Sea region.
(Readers can find out how to vote for the Dead Sea by clicking here.)
Misezhnikov called on Netanyahu to adopt a plan he proposed last month with Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan for the rehabilitation and development of the southern basin of the Dead Sea.
The plan includes full harvesting of the mineral salt deposits in the waters, at a cost of NIS 7 billion, to be financed by the Dead Sea Works. Also included is a proposal to establish a dedicated five-year, NIS 1 billion fund to develop the Dead Sea area.
However, “due to the Finance Ministry's objections to this plan,” Misezhnikov said in a statement, “a solution for funding the salt harvesting has yet to be found and the infrastructure for the development fund has yet to be put in place.”
The water level in the Dead Sea has been dropping at an alarming rate of approximately 4 feet (1.3 meters) per year, especially towards the northern end. In the south, ironically, increasing salt has pushed the water level up by eight inches (20 centimeters) a year due to manufacturing processes and mineral extraction by the Dead Sea Works. In some cases seaside hotels have even been threatened.
The lowest place on the planet, the Dead Sea is a popular destination for tourists from all over the world not only due to the soporific effect of the minerals in the air, but also because the combination of the filtered sunlight and mineral-rich water combines to create a healing treatment for those with skin conditions such as psoriasis.