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A world treasure in every sense, the Dead Sea is remarkable in many ways. A fixture of religious symbolism, it has been regarded as a remnant of God’s punishment on the transgressions of “infidels” by the Christian, Islamic and Jewish faiths alike. The Holy Bible, the Quoran, and the Talmud all refer to this ancient body of water in relation to divine punishment. For many, its inability to support life of any kind serves to further confirm the notion that its lifelessness is a direct result of God’s wrath.

At 400 m below sea level, the surface of the Dead Sea marks the lowest point on earth. This geographical distinction brings with it extreme barometric pressure that contributes to its unusually high rate of evaporation. With its waters constantly dissipating at such a rapid rate, the naturally occurring salts in its water have been left, over the centuries, to concentrate at levels found in no other body of water on earth. Indeed, the saline concentration of the Dead Sea is so high, its water’s density actually allows the human body to float on its surface. Compare the Dead Sea’s saline concentration of 32% to the 3% - 4% of regular ocean water and you can almost feel your eyes stinging.

In terms of unique composition, the high saline content is not all that brings distinction to this body of water. Dead Sea water also contains a number of unique minerals which provide a variety of health benefits. In fact, the sea’s water contains 12 minerals found in no other body of water on earth, many of which are renowned for such health benefits as nourishing the skin, activating the circulatory system and providing relief from rheumatic and metabolic disorders. Owing to this unique distinction, seekers of relaxation, vital longevity and relief from a variety of physical ailments have made the resorts adorning Dead Sea shores extremely popular destinations.

However, like many of the world’s natural treasures, the Dead Sea is currently at risk. Over the last few decades, increased demands on the Jordan River, the Dead Sea’s main tributary, have been causing Dead Sea shores to recede and its surface level to drop severely. Combine this with the reality of global-warming, and it is no surprise that many authorities fear the Dead Sea is in danger of becoming ‘dead’ itself. In fact, Dr. Khalid Momani, an environmental engineering expert at Gifu University, indicates that the Dead Sea’s surface level is receding at a rate of 1 metre per year. At this point, basic necessity and competition between nations increasingly nullify any attempt to reduce adverse effects overdrawing from the Jordan River is having on the Sea’s receding shoreline. So, that leaves one other option: bring in water from other sources. A plan for a man-made canal stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to the Dead Sea (Med-Dead plan) has been tabled along with another plan that would see a similar canal linking the Red Sea to the Dead Sea (Red-Dead plan). However, attempts to move forward with either plan have so far been hampered by extremely high construction costs and political competition.

At present, the fate of this world treasure is uncertain at best; and in grave trouble where the realistic onlooker is concerned. Without cooperation between nations bordering the Dead Sea and concerted international financial assistance, the Dead Sea is heading on a direct course for extinction at the hands of humankind. Let us hope this tragedy can be averted and that this natural treasure that is the Dead Sea can be something future generations do not equate with the negligence of their forbearers.

To find out more about the current state of the Dead Sea and what is being done to promote its preservation, visit the Friends of the Earth: Middle East homepage at

Special Thanks to Dr. Khalid Momani, Faculty of Engineering, Gifu University

Photos used with permission courtesy of