- The Washington Times - Monday, September 2, 2002

JOHANNESBURG Israel and Jordan announced yesterday their largest joint project ever, a $800 million pipeline intended to save the shrinking Dead Sea from environmental devastation.
The level of the sea, shared between the two countries that signed a peace agreement in 1994, is sinking at the rate of nearly 3 feet a year and could disappear in a few decades, damaging tourism in both countries and indirectly draining scarce water supplies in the region, Cabinet ministers from both countries said at the World Summit on Sustainable Development.
"It's a catastrophe under way, and it might be apocalyptic if we don't challenge it as fast as we can," Israeli Environment Minister Tzahi Hanegbi said.
The two governments said yesterday they hoped to work together to build a 190-mile-long pipeline from the Red Sea through both countries to halt the decrease in water level in the Dead Sea.
Israel and Jordan had hopes of close cooperation after signing a peace accord eight years ago. However, those plans never lived up to expectations, and relations between the two have cooled since the second Palestinian intifada began.
"This sends a message that we do live in one area with a common destiny. The environment, ecology and nature know no boundaries and no political conflicts," said Bassem Awadallah, Jordan's minister of planning.
The Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth at 1,200 feet below sea level, is the saltiest large body of water in the world. Its basin holds ancient sacred sites .
It also houses an unusual ecosystem, with leopards, ibexes and several threatened birds. The sea's minerals are used for health treatments, and its potash fuels a major chemical industry.
But the sea has been shrinking for decades because much of the water from the Jordan River has been diverted for use in the region.

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