While Israel’s environmental organizations were able to successfully combat four
different threats to open spaces in the year 2012, the country has gained 17
brand new threats for the new year.
The threats were unveiled in the
sixth annual Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) report,
titled “Israel’s Planning and Building Threats to Open Spaces: Annual Report for
2013,” at a press conference in Tel Aviv on Tuesday morning. This year’s report
pinpointed 119 threats to Israel’s open spaces for 2013, with 17 new threats –
raising the number to nine more than last year.
From 2008 to 2013, the
number of threats has increased by 75 percent – with 51 new threats in those
years – but in those same years 28 threats have been successfully eliminated,
according to the report. In 2012, environmental organizations were triumphant in
four out of their six attempts to combat threats.
One of the most major
new threats to crop up in 2013 is the fragmentation of the ecological corridor
in Carmel-Givot Alonim, where roads and infrastructure present a threat to
biodiversity, the report said. Another new threat is the location of the
forthcoming desalination plant in Sorek, which will damage hundreds of dunams of
agricultural fields, according to SPNI.
While SPNI supports
infrastructural development as well as increasing the capacity of the country’s
desalination facilities, it favors doing so without hindering natural resources
and expanding existing desalination plants rather than building new ones, the
Another new threat presented in the report is the
construction slated for open areas in Ness Ziona on kurkar limestone and red
loam soils, which are rich in rare plant species. SPNI said it would, again,
prefer that the development take place in an alternative location. Yet another
new threat is the location of a waste treatment facility promoted by the
Environmental Protection Ministry in the hills of Hevel Modi’in. Due to the
area’s ecological importance, SPNI argued that the site should be located
elsewhere, where damage to nature could be kept at a minimum.
four threats that environmental groups combatted successfully in 2012 were the
prevention of the city of Elad’s expansion in the direction of the Nahal Shiloh
nature reserve and of the establishment of a new settlement in Katif Nitzana in
the western Negev. In addition, the groups were victorious against the
construction of a bridge over Nahal Kziv and building in Jerusalem’s Givat Yael
The areas in Israel with the highest proportion of threats were
the Center with 26%, the Haifa and Carmel region with 17% and the Jerusalem area
with 13%, Itamar Ben- David, the report’s author and head of planning at SPNI,
demonstrated in a presentation.
Some new focuses of the report this year
versus previous years involved a look at open spaces that are associated with
energy and water infrastructure, as well as a heavier emphasis on the open
spaces found in the Mediterranean Sea, Ben- David explained. Other main
challenges addressed in the report’s pages include strengthening existing
communities over building new ones, reinforcing the urban environment, advancing
a national planning program that contains biodiversity considerations, and
changing elements of water and energy legislation, according to Ben-
Dividing the threats into categories, the report details 10
threats of new settlement establishment, 29 of transportation development, 11 of
energy infrastructure, 17 of rural and agricultural plans, 20 of water
infrastructure and 17 of the tourism industry.
development for the State of Israel is crucial, it is likewise important to
preserve the environment in the process, stressed SPNI CEO, Moshe “Kosha”
Meanwhile, SPNI vice president and environmental director Nir
Papay displayed a map from the Nature journal on a PowerPoint presentation,
indicating the biological hotspots around the world – which make up 1.6% of the
globe. While Israel is one of the areas marked on the map, the country is not
taking enough pains to work environmental issues into the planning process,
“A reform in this field of national planning needs to
include several key components, such as the treatment of obstacles preventing
the realization of tens of thousands of approved housing unit plans, the
allocation of appropriate resources to planning institutions and the anchoring
of legislation in public participation,” Papay said.
As far as the future
, it is impossible to know how a reform in the planning system might look after
the elections, Papay said. But in recent times, there has been a “troublesome
trend” afflicting the Interior Ministry and other planning institutions, which
have failed to, among other things, declare sites as nature reserves, he
The government’s concern for open spaces and other environmental
issues have direct socioeconomic implications on the quality of life for
residents, Pakman stressed.
“We call on the members of the next Knesset,
who will enter their positions in the Knesset in a few weeks, to place
environmental subjects at top priority on their agendas and to promote
legislation and the protection of open spaces, of the sea, of water, for nature
and of biodiversity, in order to bring about real change in the attitude of the
state toward these issues,” he said.