Carmel Fire 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Nir Elias)
The Israel Nature and Parks Authority demanded the immediate enactment of a
promised Carmel rehabilitation fund, in response to the state comptroller’s
Wednesday report on the Carmel fire.
In the report, State Comptroller
Micha Lindenstrauss and his team alleged that together with the Interior
Ministry, Keren Kayemeth Le Israel-Jewish National Fund and the relevant local
authorities, the INPA had not done enough to prepare the forest against future
fire damage – particularly by trimming the massive pine tree
Countering the charges in the report, the INPA slammed the
government, stating that until this year, it had not had the authority to
perform tree-clearing in areas defined as nature reserves and national parks
unless it acquired prior authorization for these activities. This obstacle,
which only changed well after the Carmel fire, prevented the authority from
clearing the number of trees necessary to create a proper buffer zone for
residences and vehicles in the forest. However, the INPA did succeed in
acquiring some permits for tree-thinning and was able to cut down more than
30,000 of the pines in 2010 – an activity that saved the Carmel Forest Hotel
from harm during the disaster, according to the organization.
the authority said it had already established thinned-out buffer zones in the
Khirbat Yunus area and along the road between Usfiya and Beit
Despite its need to continue thinning out the pine forests, the
INPA stressed that there was no budget available for either the Carmel
rehabilitation or preparation against future fires. The organization called on
the government to make the necessary budget available immediately.
past December, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan wrote a letter to
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, reminding him that a December 5, 2010,
government decision concerning “the rehabilitation of fire damages” required the
government to provide a NIS 55m. Carmel rehabilitation budget which all parties
involved had already agreed upon last summer.
The money would be crucial
to creating buffer zones in particularly fire-prone areas of the Carmel region,
Earlier last December, the INPA’s chief scientist Dr. Yehoshua
Shkedy had likewise stressed that the authority still had not seen any of the
NIS 55m. budget that it had been promised.
The INPA is obliged by law to
preserve nature and heritage, and its inspectors cope with more than 250 fire
incidents annually – most of these created by man, according to the
In the six months preceding the Carmel fire, inspectors fought
a series of fires that ultimately consumed more than 15,000 hectares of land
across the country, including a giant wildfire that destroyed the Gamla Nature
Reserve. In most of these incidents, however, the INPA was able to get the fires
under control within hours and without causing much damage, due to its clear
operation procedures and dedicated inspectors, who have often risked their lives
trying to extinguish the fire, the organization said.