Architect brokers talks in Middle East to build 200-mile canal to divert water to the Dead Sea

Lord Foster is working on a secret plan with the governments of Israel and Jordan to replenish the Dead Sea with water from the Red Sea via a 200-mile canal.

King Hussein of Jordan, members of the Israeli cabinet and senior officials at the World Bank have personally studied the plan and have given it their initial backing. The group, brokered by Foster, are now exploring ways to move the scheme forward.

The Red–Dead Sea Canal Project, which has been named “Red to Dead” by those involved, is the pet project of Foster, and follows conversations with clients in Jordan.

Work started on a concept design at the end of last year and was developed in enough detail to be shown to ministers in the spring.

The proposal centres on replenishing the Dead Sea, which is actually a salt lake located between the West Bank, Israel and Jordan, and which is fast drying up. The 200-mile canal would transfer water from the Red Sea, which separates the Middle East from the east coast of Africa, to the Dead Sea, but would also act as a catalyst for the regeneration of the surrounding areas.

The scheme includes plans for new towns and communities alongside the canal, as well as associated infrastructure, such as roads and bridges. There would also be economic and retail centres, as well as plans to “re-grass” the desert with water from the canal, creating an “agricultural hub”.

The project team, which includes sustainability expert Battle McCarthy, is now waiting for the politicians to give it the go-ahead. Guy Battle, director of Battle McCarthy, said the Dead Sea’s situation meant political leaders were taking the ideas very seriously.

The talks are at a high level and they appear to be taking it very seriously

Guy Battle

Battle said: “Action has to be taken on the Dead Sea. This scheme reinvents the concept of the canal and what it can achieve. It’s about waiting for the political machine to move forward now.”

Foster is funding the concept designs for the scheme himself until the World Bank finds a financial backer.

In the past 50 years, the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth, has seen its surface area shrink by one-third and its depth drop by 25 m. It is currently falling by one metre every year.

The water that once flowed into the Dead Sea from the River Jordan has been diverted by Syria, Jordan and Israel for agricultural and hydroelectrical projects.

Environmentalists are now warning that drastic action has to be taken to avert an ecological disaster. They also warn that the Dead Sea will disappear in 50 years if current trends persist.

Foster and Partners declined to comment.