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Israel-Jordan: Dead Sea
Score: 44

Suffers one of the most dramatic declines of any destination on our list due to continuing "strife and serious environmental problems." The water level is dropping by more than three feet a year. Some panelists say the Jordanian side is less degraded, others that Israel has managed tourism "in a sustainable fashion."

Here is a representative sampling of additional anonymous comments from the panelists. They are not necessarily the views of the National Geographic Society:

"This area is now in serious trouble. The beautiful Mujib entrance is practically invisible because of all the buildings, signs, and campsites. The sea itself is disappearing; the hope is that a very expensive Red-Dead Canal will restore it one day. The tourism development consists of hotels that do provide local employment, but that, without water—the water level is dropping every year—won't last long. The first real road opened on the Jordanian side less than 20 years ago. It is amazing how much damage has been done in those 20 years."

"Huge environmental challenges lie ahead as the lake is drying up due to overuse of the Jordan River and to the mining of minerals from the Dead Sea. The desert nearby is also threatened by irresponsible hikers, who do not abide by the "Leave No Trace" ethic. As a result, the aesthetic appeal of the region is highly diminished. The area with the most tourism (on the Israeli side) is Ein Bokek. It exercises mass tourism, with large resort hotels that do not fit with the landscape and are not culturally or ecologically appropriate."

"Requires a comprehensive multinational solution that includes the Palestinians and Syrians, so that a river-basin approach is utilized to manage the Sea."

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