Some 150 people attended last week’s public hearing sponsored by the World Bank and the Israeli Water Authority ahead of finalizing the Red- Dead conduit plan. The meeting, held outside of Jerusalem at the Neveh Ilan Hotel, was attended by scores of activists from Green organizations, who oppose the plan to dig a canal that would connect the dying Dead Sea to the Red Sea.
President Shimon Peres has championed the plan for years, which is supposed to include the "corridor of peace", an ambitious project of economic, tourist and agricultural development for Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.
Gideon Bromberg, director of the Israeli branch of Friends of the Earth Middle East, one of the leaders of the fight against the project said that, “Our main demand is that the World Bank who is carrying out the feasibility study of the project widens its examination and considers alternatives.”
“Why aren’t they studying the entire system of water resources in Israel,” he asks, “that might enable the partial diversion of the Jordan River and that way both the River and the Dead Sea would be rehabilitated?"
MK Dov Hanin, chairman of the Knesset Environment Committee, also has reservations about the project. “It’s a very serious plan and I am concerned that it will create a situation that begins with a catchy popular slogan around which an entire policy will be built. Only afterwards we’ll seriously look for the policy’s justification. I am worried that there hasn’t been enough professional study of the plan and its many ramifications. It's adaptation could be at the expense of rehabilitating the Jordan River.”
The Green groups oppose the program because they are concerned that the digging of such a canal is liable to alter the unique mineral composition of the water of the Dead Sea, especially its color which may become red because of the growth of algae. This could also lead to irreversible negative consequences for the Arava, the Gulf of Eilat and the Gulf of Aqaba.
Officials of the Union for Environmental Defense are calling for the entire system of water resources to be studied. “As long as a comprehensive program is lacking, such a large-scale project is worthless.”