US/World News

Dead Sea vying to be a ‘new’ natural wonder

The Dead Sea is the lowest place on earth and the saltiest lake in the world.

By Mark Mietkiewicz

If you have ever had the chance to float on the Dead Sea supported by its salty waters, you now have the opportunity to return the favor and support the Dead Sea. The unique body of water is a finalist in an international competition vying to be named one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature.
By November 11, hundreds of millions of votes will be cast for the 28 final contenders. Competitors include familiar locales like the Amazon, Galapagos, Grand Canyon, Black Forest and Great Barrier Reef as well as lesser-known wonders like Vietnam’s Halong Bay, Taiwan’s Yushan mountain and Azerbaijan’s Mud Volcanoes. Just to get a spot on the shortlist, all 28 finalists had to beat over 400 other contenders. [http://bit.ly/deadsea1]
The pressure is mounting. When a similar competition was held a few years ago to name the New Seven Wonders of the World, over 100 million votes were cast for manmade sites including the winners: the Great Wall of China, Chichen Itza, Christ the Redeemer, the Coliseum, Machu Picchu, Petra and the Taj Mahal. [http://bit.ly/deadsea2]
The challengers are taking this competition very seriously. A win means not just bragging rights but free global publicity that could lead to increased tourism. In the case of the Dead Sea, the bid is shared by Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and Israel whose government has allocated more than $2.5 million to promote its candidate. [http://bit.ly/deadsea3]
This competition of course is very much a popularity contest where bids that are more adept at mobilizing public opinion will excel. So how do you compete with incredible natural wonders from around the world? [http://bit.ly/deadsea4]

Here are the top seven reasons that makes the Dead Sea special.
1. The lowest place on earth with shores 420 meters below sea level.
2. The saltiest lake in the world – with a salt concentration of 33.7% or 8.6 times saltier than the ocean.
3. Unique mud with medical and cosmetic characteristics.
4. Clear, rich air which has 6% more oxygen than anywhere else in the world.
5. A winning combination of history and nature surrounded by ancient ruins, and of course, pillars of salt.
6. Effortless floating provides hydrotherapy treatment without requiring any technical aids.
7. The world’s largest natural spa. [http://bit.ly/deadsea5]

For all good news about the Dead Sea, you won’t see very much on the official sites about the serious environmental challenges it faces. The shores of the Dead Sea are dropping by one meter per year and huge sinkholes have been opening up, evidence of a severe water shortage, increased tourism and the growth of chemical extraction industries in the vicinity. [http://bit.ly/deadsea6]
After Israel announced that it would be bankrolling significant funds for the entry, the Friends of the Earth Middle East responded that the Israeli bid smacks of “Greenwashing”. “We welcome the decision to publicize the choice of the Dead Sea as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature,” the environmental organization said. “But while one arm of government is promoting the global marketing of the Dead Sea, other areas are not concerned about protecting it and are even taking steps that would harm it.” [http://bit.ly/deadsea7]
Nevertheless, Dead Sea supporters have been doing their utmost to keep their nominee in the news.

■ Earlier this year, 25 of the Chilean miners who were rescued after 69 days underground took some time off to float on the sea’s salty waters. [http://bit.ly/deadsea8]

■ Ido Tadmor, one of Israel’s leading choreographers and dancers, has created a special dance inspired by the sea. “The Dead Sea is my favorite spot in Israel, where I go to rest and be reborn … This is the place to which I feel the strongest spiritual connection, where I feel purified and cleansed. For me, this is one of the most amazing places in the world.” [http://bit.ly/deadsea9]

■ And there have also been, shall we say, some unorthodox campaigns to grab headlines. Recently, 1,000 Dead Sea-boosters stripped off everything to proclaim their fealty to the natural wonder, and to raise awareness of the diminishing water levels of the lake. [http://bit.ly/deadsea10]

Whatever your reason, you can vote for your top seven wonders of nature until November 11. [http://bit.ly/deadsea11]

Mark Mietkiewicz writes about the Internet.  He can be reached at highway@rogers.com.

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