This morning at about 10:30 ET, citizens of Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territories expect to hear the news that the Dead Sea has been voted one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
Online and SMS voting in the two-year-long competition that included 28 sites such as the U.S. Grand Canyon, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and the Bay of Fundy was to have ended at 11:11 a.m. GMT today.
In the case of the Dead Sea, the bid was put forward jointly by the governments of each of Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority (a rare act of three-way co-operation) as each of them has a share of the shoreline, and a stake in the future revenue from the added tourism that may result from the worldwide recognition.
Israel in particular has spent a great deal of money and time promoting the bid and encouraging people around the world to vote for the Dead Sea entry. Which is ironic, since it is Israel’s diversion of water away from the Jordan River and the Dead Sea that has been the biggest cause of a drop in the level of the sea by one metre a year! The severe shrinkage means that if nothing is done to restore a greater flow of water into the sea, there will be no world wonder left in another 50 years.
The diverted water, which is piped through Israel’s main water carrier to the centre of the country, is taken from the Jordan, north of the Sea of Galilee, leaving that body of water at its lowest level in recorded history. It is so low that little water flows south into the main part of the Jordan and on into the Dead Sea.
The country is only now beginning to employ large desalination plants to treat Mediterranean water for residential and commercial use. Much more needs to be done, experts say, to replace the water taken from the Jordan.
Residents and businesses on the receding Dead Sea shoreline hope that winning seven-wonders status will force the government of Israel to take action to restore the flow of water in the Jordan River Valley.
Until then they face the prospect of docks being left high and dry and of having to bus tourists to and from the salty water’s muddy edge hundreds of metres away.
At least the dry sea bed will provide lots of area for the giant celebratory party scheduled to take place tonight on the shoreline.