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Development and the Drying of the Dead Sea
Sarah Rich, 23 May 07
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Just as ecological crises can divide people and incite regional unrest, they can also unify hostile populations by necessitating collaborative action to address a problem which impacts all sides. In places like Rwanda and Darfur, climate change and environmental decline have been driving conflict for years, exacerbating tension by depleting common resources and rendering people hungry, thirsty and homeless.

Increasingly, environmental peacekeeping initiatives appear to be an effective way to promote peace by addressing environmental problems. Such is the case near the Dead Sea, where degradation of the water and the surrounding ecosystems has brought Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian groups into cooperation towards restoration. The Middle Eastern branch of Friends of the Earth (FoEME) has been engaging the three groups to address issues of drought and development around the Dead Sea, carrying out extensive research on the biodiversity and natural resources there, and proposing alternatives to existing plans for bolstering tourism and adding more infrastructure as the area becomes a vacation destination.

In response to massive and uncoordinated development proposed for the Dead Sea basin, FoEME has now launched a project to create a comprehensive integrated regional development plan for the entire Dead Sea region. The plan will be a collaborative effort with participation of all relevant riparian stakeholders, Israeli, Jordanian, and Palestinian, as well international interests.

Already some proposals have been put forth by governing bodies to bring water back into the drying Dead Sea through canals running from the Red Sea and the Mediterranean; however, environmental groups such as FoEME warn that there is great potential for the results of this plan to have enough negative implications as to outweigh the benefit of channeling water in. An integrated management plan would address not only the reintroduction of water, but the careful implementation of other efforts that impact water levels and the ecosystem. The points of this plan include:

- Limiting tourism development

- Stopping the construction of needless roadways

- Establishing the entire Dead Sea Basin as a "Man and Biosphere Reserve" (MAB) according to UNESCO's definition

- Rapidly developing a joint management plan for the region

- Ensuring that water currently reaching natural areas continues to do so

All of these plans must contend, of course, with interests towards economic growth and profit among all three participating governments, meaning that to stop building entirely or attempt to turn a future development site into a conservation area will be very difficult. But water shortages and pollution couldn't be a more real or serious consideration in long-term planning for development, which means that regional authorities must examine their options for incorporating innovative water management regimens into their goals. Things we've discussed on Worldchanging such as , , and Rather, by coordinating, communicating and balancing the desire for growth with the reality of the environmental impacts it will cause, Israel, Jordan and Palestine may be able to keep the Dead Sea alive and well.

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