The Environmental Protection Ministry will be investing NIS 183 million in the regulation of waste in the Arab and Beduin sectors, under the framework of a new environmental-social justice strategy launched on Tuesday.
As part of the annual Knesset Environment Day – held two weeks after World Environment Day – the ministry unveiled on Tuesday its Strategy for the Advancement of Environmental-Social Justice, which has been a mantra of Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz since he took office in 2013.
Intrinsic in the new strategy is “environmental equality” and a goal of reducing disparities in society through environmental action, according to the ministry.
The NIS 183m. to be invested in revamping the Arab and Beduin sector’s waste management systems aims to accomplish exactly that goal, ministry officials explained at the Knesset on Tuesday.
“All Israeli residents have the right to enjoy clean air, safe drinking and bathing water, inhabitable land, access to landscape and heritage sites and protection against pollution and environmental hazards,” Peretz said. “Social justice, environmental justice and peace are the circle of life that ensures the future of the State of Israel.”
The funds, which have been approved in various government decisions over the past year, will be used for the establishment of recycling infrastructure, as well as collection and treatment of waste. Many communities in the Beduin sector and some Israeli-Arab towns lack trash receptacles and therefore litter in area streams or burn garbage in the open air, thereby causing severe pollution hazards, according to the ministry.
Already, the ministry’s activities are visible in the Beduin village of Umm Batin, where modern underground trash cans have been installed, ministry officials explained. Within three years, all local authorities in the Arab sector will benefit from the program, they said.
In addition to bringing waste infrastructure to Arab villages and Beduin communities, the Strategy for the Advancement of Environmental- Social Justice has also involved recruiting minority group members to perform civil service terms within the ministry. In the coming year, about 50 young ultra-Orthodox Jews and Arab-Israelis will take part in this new civil service option, engaging in sustainability and recycling advocacy in their communities. Many of the civil servants will work in the Beduin communities that are first implementing waste collection services.
In addition to recruiting these minority community members to Civil Service, the ministry has also connected with the Volunteer Association, in preparation to accommodate up to 500 young men and women interested in performing National Service (Sherut Leumi) terms within the office.
An additional plan that ministry officials presented at the Knesset on Tuesday as part of their new strategy is a program to support “social businesses” that act as nonprofits but are not based on contributions, explained Galit Cohen, deputy director- general for policy and planning at the ministry.
Examples of such businesses that already exist include the Bar-Kayma cooperative in Tel Aviv, the Solar Garden in Binyamina, the EcoCommunity electronic waste reuse plant in Karmiel and the Citytree urban ecology group, Cohen said.
Many such organizations experience difficulties obtaining financing and also lack business experience.
Accordingly, the ministry has decided to set up a NIS 10m. investment fund to support these businesses, as well as provide them mentorship.
“The motto of the ministry right now is that environmental justice is equivalent to social justice,” said ministry director-general David Lefler during the presentation.
In addition to the ministry’s strategy launch, a variety of environmental activities and discussions took place throughout the day on Tuesday to mark Knesset Environment Day.
A special session of the Social-Environment Caucus, led by MKs Dov Henin (Hadash) and Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), focused on the status of Israel’s beaches and marine regions.
Most of the committee meetings on Tuesday dedicated time to discussing various environmental issues, as did the afternoon plenary session.
During the plenary session, Knesset members approved in a first reading a bill to regulate the ownership and sale of pesticides.
Also in the afternoon was the 11th annual Green Globe ceremony, during which Life and Environment – the umbrella group for all of Israel’s environmental organizations – distributed its “environmental Oscars” to individuals and groups whose contributions to the environment have been particularly outstanding.
Emphasizing throughout the day’s events that environmental justice, social justice and peace will constitute the future of the country, Peretz stressed that every day must be an environmental day in Israel.
“The environmental movement does not have enough days in which to celebrate,” he said.