This is a written analysis of the ways economic considerations influence how the issues surrounding the Dead Sea have been dealt with.
The Dead Sea is an extraordinarily unique and world renowned lake with highly valued natural resources. This has attracted a large number of industries in the past 50 years alone. As a result of this rapid and unsustainable development, the Dead Sea is decreasing in size by more than 3 feet per year, leading to the creation of many more problems for the people of this region. Today, habitat around the lake is being lost, sinkholes are developing around the area at faster and faster rates, and local businesses are being forced to shut down by the larger mineral extracting corporations, which displaces many families in the area. These are only some of the negative externalities coming out of the increasingly globalized demand for the minerals and other such natural capital taken from the Dead Sea.
According to Gidon Bromberg, the Israeli director of the Friends of Earth Middle East, half of the Dead Sea’s 1.5 m (4.9 ft) decline in 2012 can be attributed to Israel Chemicals Ltd. (ICL) and Jordan’s Arab Potash Co. (APOT). This industry’s extraction and negative impact on the Dead Sea has only increased to meet with global demand. Many of the extracted minerals have medicinal benefits, particularly when used in the mud baths and mineral springs. These medicinal products are often used in spas and other tourist destinations around the Dead Sea, but they are also shipped to consumers all around the world. However, in increasing the extraction and degrading the Dead Sea, these industries also negatively impact tourism in the area. The Sea has lost about one-third of its surface area, leading to the development of massive sinkholes that now make many areas too dangerous to conduct business in. Of course, tourism is directly impacted by the receding shoreline, as well. Unable and unwilling to move hotels or spas closer to a continually receding shoreline, tourist destinations now provide travelers with buses to take from their hotels to the Dead Sea, which has moved several miles out. This negative effect on tourism can then affect the local economy as the tourism industry loses money, jobs are lost, and money made from the minerals extracted by large corporations is siphoned out of the local economy.
However, we can see that the causes and complexities of this issue extend beyond the economics involved. In the year 2012, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East began a boycott campaign against Dead Sea products, which they defined as the cosmetic products made using the material extracted from the Dead Sea (see fact sheet here). It was known that many of the companies that manufacture these materials were and continue to be Israeli colonies, which unjustly extract resources from the occupied Palestinian territory. This promotes Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territory, violating provisions of other international law, but this also takes resources out of Palestinian territory without paying Palestinian taxes to then feed the Israeli economy. For a greater analysis into the politics of this issue, visit our page on policy considerations.
The Dead Sea’s degradation also negatively impacts the surrounding natural habitat, including springs that support a wide variety of flora and fauna, including fish, trees, migrating birds, and many other animals, bugs, invertebrates.
Fortunately, much like the boycott against Dead Sea products, people aware of this issue are taking action to preserve the Dead Sea. As the spas in the area become increasingly concerned about their impacts, efforts are strengthened towards lightening their environmental footprints in many ways: conserving water, recycling treatment oils and muds, and self-sufficiently producing a full range of treatments. Many spas have also tried to focus on products that are local, natural, and organic. All this is done in the hopes of maintaining and promoting the longer-term sustainability of the industry and the Dead Sea.
To better understand the context of this issue, visit our FAQ Page.
Also see references.