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ENVIRONMENT REPORT - January 20, 2002: Jordan and Israel Seek to Help Dead Sea - 2002-09-19

This is the VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

Israel and Jordan recently announced that they would work together to help save the Dead Sea from shrinking. Government officials said the joint project would help the sea, protect the area’s unusual wildlife and increase the number of visitors to the area. The announcement was made during the United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development earlier this month in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The Dead Sea is on the border between Israel and Jordan. It is three-hundred-sixty-five meters below sea level. That is the lowest point on Earth. The Dead Sea is the saltiest large body of water in the world.

The area around the Dead Sea has ancient places that are important to Jews, Christians and Muslims. Minerals in the Dead Sea are used for health treatments. The strange beauty of the sea brings many visitors to the area.

But the Dead Sea is shrinking by almost one meter each year. Most of the water that flows into the Dead Sea comes from the Jordan River. However, water flowing from the Jordan River has been redirected for other uses in the area. Officials say within the next fifty years, the Dead Sea could shrink to less than half of its current size.

To prevent that, Israel and Jordan plan to build a pipeline more than three-hundred kilometers long. The pipeline would pump water from the Red Sea through both countries into the Dead Sea. After the pipeline is built, the officials hope to build a canal and a salt removal system that will provide fresh water to Jordanians, Israelis and Palestinians.

The pipeline will take at least three years to build. The project will cost as much as one-thousand-million dollars. Israel and Jordan hope to pay for it with help from other countries. The project is expected to begin after a nine-month study is completed.

Israel and Jordan had hoped to cooperate closely on a number of issues after they signed a peace agreement in nineteen-ninety-four. However, tensions have increased between them since the current Palestinian uprising began two years ago.

Officials from Israel and Jordan described the water project as a major step forward. Experts say the agreement sends a message that the environment, ecology and nature are more important than borders or political conflicts.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written by Cynthia Kirk.