Environmentalists in Jordan are warning that the Dead Sea will disappear by the year 2050 if its level continues to drop at the current rate. Friends of the Earth (Middle East) has stepped up a campaign to try to save the world?s saltiest body of water. The group is running a photo competition to draw attention to the threat facing the lake, which is home to several rare species of plant and wildlife.

The Dead Sea is unique. You can float in it, it is renowned for its health-giving properties and it?s a major tourist draw on both its Israeli and Jordanian sides. But the Dead Sea is now dying as the water that used to feed it is diverted for industry, agriculture and domestic use in both Israel and Jordan.

Sultan Abdul Rahman of Friends of the Earth says, ?It?s not only that the water level is going down – the ecosystem that used to exist around the Dead Sea is also suffering a lot. The fresh water that used to go to the sea is pumped to cities like Amman and that means that no more water is flowing downstream to the Dead Sea to support the wildlife along the Jordan River and its wadis and springs.?

The environmental group wants to register the Dead Sea for protection with the UN, and set up a regional management plan for the lake. But the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is hampering efforts to co-ordinate a response to the Dead Sea?s crisis.

Jordan?s Water Minister, Hazim el-Naser, says the only solution is to pump water into it from the Red Sea, which would be a multi-billion dollar project. ?Simply, this money is not available and there?s a need for the international community to help these countries to build and implement this project which, in the future, would be an important element for regional co-operation and peace in this area,? he says. ?The prerequisite for implementing this project is to have good co-operation between the parties before starting such a project. I think it?s not the right time for it.?

With the region in the grip of a serious drought, the Dead Sea?s shore will continue to recede. Friends of the Earth warns that if things continue as they are, in less than 50 years, the Dead Sea will be gone for good.

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