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Joahannesburg Summit 2002
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Jordan and Israel Announce Project to Save Dead Sea

Johannesburg, 1 September—To save the Dead Sea from further shrinkage, Jordan and Israel announced that they were pursuing a $1 billion joint project to pipe water from the Red Sea.

The lowest point on the Earth, the Dead Sea has fallen even lower as its water level has dropped from 395 meters below sea level to 410 over the last thirty years with water diverted to other uses. The Sea, which borders Jordan, Israel and Palestinian Authority lands, has already divided into two parts, and studies show the southern part disappearing within fifty years if no action is taken.

"We cannot wait," according to Jordanian Minister of Water Hazem El Nasser. "There is an urgent need to move or we will suffer severe consequences."

El Nasser explained that the project, which will require international cooperation, involves building a largely underground "Peace Conduit" from the Gulf of Aqaba to the Dead Sea through the Aqaba Valley. The project, he said, would not harm the coral reefs in the Red Sea. Part of the envisioned project involves building desalinization plants that can provide freshwater to the people in the region, and there is an opportunity to take advantage of the drop in sea level to generate hydropower.

The benefits of the project, he said, include greater cross-boundary cooperation, economic cooperation, and an opportunity to address regional water needs. Both nations will ask the World Bank for assistance on the project.

"There is a natural disaster in the making," Jordanian Minister of Planning Bassem Awadallah said, explaining it was impossible to wait until the conflicts in the region were settled.

"This event justifies the whole World Summit on Sustainable Development," according to Tzachi Hanegbi, Israeli Environment Minister. "Whether you want to save the world or the Dead Sea, you have to focus on specific actions. That is the soul of the Summit."

Israel's Minister of Regional Cooperation Roni Milo also called the project urgent and said it could help "in bringing life to the Dead Sea and can bring life to the whole Middle East. He added that the Palestinians will become partners in the project.

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24 August 2006