Environmental action groups have declared war on the intentions of President Shimon Peres and Delek Group controlling shareholder Yitzhak Tshuva to promote the Red-Dead canal plan through fast track legislation designed to bypass the Planning and Building Law (1965).
The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, The Friends of the Earth Middle East, The Israel Union For Environmental Defense, Green Course - Students for the Environment , Life & Environment, and Zalul, have announced the setting up of a coalition whose goal is to stop the project from going forward, unless it is introduced under the framework of existing legislation, and is subjected to a thorough public debate.
Tshuva's venture, which has been described as "Las Vegas in the Arava", includes the excavating of a series of lakes between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea, the building of 200,000 hotel rooms (four times the total number of hotel rooms in Israel today), and the creation of one million jobs.
The idea for a canal is not new, and it was first mentioned in a plan envisioned by Binyamin Zeev Herzl. The plan conceived then called for the building of an aqueduct to produce energy between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea. As a result of the fall in the level of the Dead Sea in recent years and the development of sink holes, a number of proposals for rehabilitating the sea have been made, including the plan that Peres has been promoting, to dig a canal from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. The plan has been bitterly criticized by environmental groups and researchers who claim that the mixing of Red Sea and Dead Sea water could turn the waters of the Dead Sea into gypsum.
The environmental coalition says it is demanding that the program's backers and developers look at the various alternatives before reaching a decision. They have called for an examination of, among other things, the impact the plan could have on the Gulf of Eilat, the Arava Valley and the Dead Sea, given that a project of this size could pose a serious risk to the entire region. "The rehabilitation of the Dead Sea should be carried out after an extensive public dialogue, and should be based on the opinions of experts from the various fields," says the coalition.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on June 16, 2008
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