Clouds are seen above the Dead Sea north of Ein Gedi Feb. 22, 2009. Warnings continue that the Dead Sea is slowly but surely drying up, and could be gone completely in 50 years if no action is taken.The water level is dropping at close to one metre (three feet) per year due to a sharp decrease in inflow from the Jordan and other rivers whose waters now irrigate fields. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

A proposed project to transfer Red Sea waters into the Dead Sea through tunnels or buried pipelines to control the fast-shrinking lake could pose a threat to major archaeological sites, a new World Bank report reveals.

The World Bank-led “Red Sea - Dead Sea Water Conveyance Study Program,” involving Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority to analyze the probable impact of the project on the  environment and society, has identified several archaeological sites within Arabah in the Jordan Rift Valley that could be destroyed in the due course of constructions associated with the project.

“A conveyance project would pose environmental and social impacts, mostly during construction,” according to the recent update on the study program.

The Dead Sea is the lowest spot on Earth and its famously buoyant water is ten times more saline than the ocean. It borders Jordan to the east and Israel and West Bank to the west. The high levels of salinity in this salt lake do not let marine life flourish in it.

Research has shown that Dead Sea water level has fallen over 25 meters in less than 50 years. It continues to shrink rapidly at a rate of one meter every year and may disappear before the end of this century. The water conveyance project aims at restoring the lake that’s also a tourist paradise.


Beach umbrellas are seen on the shore of the Dead Sea in Ein Gedi Feb. 22, 2009. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

Though the feasibility study of transferring water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea as a means to arrest the rapidly declining water level of the Dead Sea has not come to a concrete conclusion, the World Bank drew a few preliminary conclusions about the project last month concerning the potential impact on the mixing of the Red Sea and Dead Sea waters.

“Mixing sea water and/or desalination brine with the Dead Sea water entails risks, and especially when the amounts exceed 300 million cubic meters per year.”

The declining water level of the Dead Sea has many intangible consequences than previously thought, for the site holds immense historic, cultural, economic and environmental importance. Researchers say some of these consequences may become irreversible.


A tourist sits on a chair in the Dead Sea March 17, 2009. The Dead Sea valley has had a place in human history for thousands of years. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside

Diversion of water of the Jordan River, the major source of water for Dead Sea, in the recent decades has led to shrinkage of the “salt sea.” To avoid potential hazards from the conveyance project, the study program also suggests some alternatives to save the Dead Sea.

“This sea water conveyance from the Red Sea is the identified option to address the problem under the Study Program, but there are many other options examined under the Study of Alternatives, including the option to restore the Jordan River and of course the option to take no action. The Study Program has most definitely not assumed that the best solution to the Dead Sea problems is the conveyance of sea water from the Red Sea.”


The northern Dead Sea is seen from Palestinian Territories, Dec. 9, 2008. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun