The Dead Sea, the salty lake located at the lowest point on Earth, is gradually shrinking under the heat of the Middle Eastern sun.
Watch the video and answer the questions below about it.
1 Why is there a danger that the Dead Sea dries?
2 How fast is the level of the water dropping?
3 Why are sinkholes forming?
4 How far do tourists at the resort have to go these days before they reach the beach?
5 What effects do the mud baths have on tourists?
6 Why are Israel, Jordan and Syria mentioned?
7 What kind of animal is an ibex?
The Dead Sea is one of the great ecological treasures of the world but for years there has been a fear that the sea might live up to its name and die as the countries of the Middle East drain the river system for precious drinking water. Now there’s hope that is about to change. Kevin Connelly reports.
The surface of the Dead Sea. It’s the lowest point on the face of the Earth and it’s getting lower. The level of the dense mineral-rich water is dropping at a rate of more than a metre a year.
A hundred years ago, British engineers marked the level of the waters of the Dead Sea here, high up on this rock. How much have things changed? Well, look how far the level has dropped over the course of the century, and it’s still dropping every single day.
As the waters retreat, thousands of sinkholes are forming. They are created when underground pockets of salt suddenly collapse. They give the landscape a kind of lunar beauty. But they can be bad for business. The buildings of this beach resort collapsed into a sinkhole last year and now it has closed down. The effect, like a slow motion earthquake.
Even the resorts that remain are struggling. When this one opened 30 years ago on the Israeli shore, the waves reached these beach umbrellas. Now it’s a two-kilometre ride on the tourist train to the water, and every holiday season the sea retreats further, the ride gets longer and the future seems more uncertain.
It has been a bad life in the last few years because you are seeing like your homeland or your home landscape going and disappearing, shrinking, and you know that maybe you leave for your children or grandchildren something that won’t be like the place that you grew up in.
The tourists keep coming, though. Some like the buoyancy of the super salty water, it’s impossible to sink in it. Others even find something magical and maybe medicinal in the mud.
Actually, it makes you feel so good, free, stressless, like you’re living in another place with this mud.
The once mighty river Jordan was the Dead Sea's main source of water. Now it’s dying itself as Israel, Jordan and Syria tap into the rivers of the Middle East to water their farms and feed their people. This building in a bone-dry landscape was once a hydroelectric power station but the river that drove it has dried to a trickle.
Jordan and Israel still evaporate the shrinking waters too for its valuable deposits of phosphates. The salt residues produce landscapes that are almost arctic in the desert sun. A small group of Jordanian families has farmed here in this harsh landscape for generations. Now the ground is disintegrating beneath them as sinkholes appear here, too.
But where it does retreat, nature sometimes returns. Our cameras filming at the side of this camping ground, abandoned because of sinkholes only last year, caught a glimpse of this herd of ibex, a type of desert goat, moving back in.
There is a plan to save the Dead Sea by piping water across the deserts to the south from the Red Sea. It will be expensive, the governments in the region say it’s worth it, and it will happen. In the meantime, though, the sea continues to dwindle.
Kevin Connelly, BBC News, at the Dead Sea.
1 because the Middle East countries take lots of water from the rivers around it.
2 (more than) a metre per year
3 because underground pockets of salt suddenly collapse
4 two kilometres
5 they are medicinal, they make them feel good and stressless
6 because these countries take water from the rivers in the Middle East to water farms and for drinking purposes
7 a goat