Internal Affairs and Environment Committee Chairwoman Miri Regev (Likud) launched a new subcommittee on Wednesday that will investigate Haifa Bay environmental and planning issues, to be led by MK Dov Henin (Hadash).

The decision to establish the subcommittee occurred following an extensive committee discussion that day regarding the expansion of oil refineries in the Haifa region, and the consequent health and environmental risks posed to residents. Aside from Henin, the other subcommittee members will include MKs Tamar Zandberg (Meretz), Hamad Amar (Yisrael Beytenu) and David Azoulay (Shas).

The sub-committee has been tasked with generating a recommendation for the Haifa metropolitan region with regards to pollution and planning in the Haifa Bay, within three months, the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee's spokesman said.

During Wednesday's committee meeting, Henin explained that a planning program – TAMA-30 – for the Haifa Bay region calls for the legalization of 250,000 square meters of industry that has been built illegally, as well as the expansion of the refinery area by another 670,000 meters. Despite the fact that 2,200 professional objections have been submitted against the plan, a sub-committee of the regional planning and building has already approved the plans, Henin explained.

"The danger to the health of Haifa residents as a result of pollution from hazardous factories on one hand, and in the event of a disaster like an earthquake or war on the other hand, is severe," Henin said. "All the more so, the Haifa metropolitan region is stricken with the highest percentage of respiratory illness in the country and thus has the highest cancer rate in the country."

Henin also referred to an incident nearly two weeks ago, in which a fire burned for hours at the Gadiv factory of Haifa Oil Refineries before hazard material experts arrived on the ground.

"The expansion is an environmental and health crisis and a danger to the 600,000 residents of the Haifa area," he said.

Yosef Mishlav, director of the Haifa district for the Interior Ministry, stressed, however, that TAMA-30 will make positive changes for the residents of Haifa, regulating refineries in a city "saturated with contaminants."

"I would like a Riviera and not refineries," he said.

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