Sinkholes — sudden, dangerous pits that form when rock beneath the surface is dissolved by groundwater — first began to appear around the Dead Sea in the late 1980s, caused by the rapid decline of that body of water. Today the water level is dropping more than a metre per year.
In 1990 there were a little over 100 sinkholes, according to the Geological Survey of Israel Since 2005, the situation has been critical, with an explosion in the number and size of the sinkholes.
Today, there are more than 6,000, with new ones showing up daily.
The sinkholes have completely reshaped the landscape around the Dead Sea, forcing residents to reimagine and redesign life around this unique geographic phenomenon. Gone are the public beaches in the northern part of the sea, Mineral Beach and Ein Gedi beach, and the nearly 40 places of employment they provided in the economically depressed area.
The flip side of the destruction is that the sinkholes have also created an impenetrable nature reserve. Ironically, sinkholes will protect the fragile ecology from human development better than any amount of environmental lobbying.
A long feature in the Times of Israel examines the prospects for the Dead Sea as it slowly fades away.Thursday, February 16, 2017