Israel is allocating NIS 833 million, approximately $240 million, to rehabilitate the Dead Sea after years of neglect. The plan, unanimously approved by the Cabinet on Sunday, is geared toward environmental rehabilitation — fixing the diminishing water levels — and attracting new tourists.
“For the first time, after years in which the Dead Sea was used only as a source for the exploitation of natural resources, the country understands that nature’s resources are a public asset for generations,” Environment Protection Minister Gilad Erdan said. The money would toward fixing some of the environmental damage caused by industrial activity, he said.
A steering committee will monitor the program’s implementation and remove “bureaucratic barriers which arise,” a government press release stated.
A small portion of the investment, approximately $40 million, will be allocated to environmental projects. The Dead Sea’s nature reserves are depleted, partially because of reduced water levels, and the plan calls for restoring water to prevent phenomena like sinkholes that have emerged in recent years. Areas along the northern shore that have been damaged, or are considered at risk, will be rehabilitated.
The Israeli public has rallied to save the Dead Sea in recent months. In November, the environmental group Friends of the Earth Middle East held a mock funeral procession opposite the Knesset to protest what they deemed the government’s “long, ongoing neglect of the Dead Sea.”
The rest of the funds — some $200 million — is earmarked for entrepreneurial projects and new tourism sites.
Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov hailed the move, saying the Dead Sea would now “receive the respect it deserves by the Israeli government.” The allocation would recharge the local economy and add jobs, he predicted.
The Dead Sea was chosen as a finalist in the New7Wonders of Nature campaign in 2011. But it lost out to other natural wonders like Jeju Island in South Korea and Puerto Princesa Underground River in the Philippines.
The Dead Sea is a huge salt lake, 42 miles long and 11 miles wide. Its water is ten times saltier than ocean water. It is located some 1,378 feet below sea level and forms a natural border between Jordan and Israel. The Jordan River is the primary tributary for the Dead Sea.