Facing heavy opposition from green groups, the Central District Planning and Building Committee approved on late Monday afternoon oil drilling plans for the Meged 6, 7 and 8 plots in the area of Rosh Ha’ayin.

Both the Environmental Protection Ministry and green organizations blasted the committee’s decision to approve drillings by the Givot Olam Oil company, due to the environmental sensitivity of the area and the potential harm that drilling could cause to local residents.

Further oil drilling should not occur until the government formulates a national strategy to examine its environmental impact, according to the ministry.

Accordingly, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan sent a letter to Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau on Monday after the decision, asking that Landau’s ministry join the Environmental Protection Ministry in preparing a strategic impact report on the exploitation of Israel’s energy resources.

The purpose of the report would be to outline an overall government policy, and to examine the long-term consequences of drilling such wells, Erdan’s letter explained.

The minister stressed that such a report is an acceptable tool widely used in developed countries that has not yet been used in Israel. It would examine potential risks to water resources, cumulative ecological implications, potential mishaps and preventative mechanisms, according to the letter.

“The oil exploration industry can have positive economic impacts, but first and foremost it causes certain environmental damages that may be irreversible – and unfortunately, the Energy [and Water] Ministry does not outline a clear policy and set priorities,” Erdan wrote.

“The promotion of drilling without investigation will harm the great green land reserves that surround the Gush Dan and will prevent millions of residents [from] access to leisure and recreational activities in open spaces.”

The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) likewise stressed that the eastern hills of the central district bear an ecologically critical landscape – a passageway of sorts that connects the country’s North to the South – creating a network of open spaces for animals and a migration route for birds of prey. Drilling would severely harm wildlife activity at night, and developers should refrain from drilling in that region and instead find alternative spaces that are less ecologically sensitive, according to SPNI.

“The regional committee decided in fact to sacrifice the national ecological corridor, the only one in the center of the country, in favor of drilling,” SPNI said in a statement. “The developer, Givot Olam, left when all of its requests were in its hands, while environment and ecological values that are important on a national level have been pushed aside to a corner.”

“The price will be paid, as usual, by the public and nature,” the statement continued.

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