In light of the air pollution plaguing dense urban areas like Tel Aviv, the deputy mayor of the municipality has appealed to the environmental protection and transportation ministers for urgent solutions to this public health hazard.
“Transportation is a major source of air pollution in Tel Aviv, and we must act swiftly to implement measures that will reduce it,” wrote the city’s deputy mayor, Meital Lahavi (Meretz), in a letter to the ministers last week.
Metropolitan hubs like Tel Aviv are suffering from air pollution caused by transportation, one of Israel’s most problematic pollution sources, according to Lahavi. Although reduction and prevention of air pollution is possible, doing requires the combined implementation of measures on both local and national levels, she argued.
“He who seeks to deal with air pollution must deal with aspects connected to pollution from transportation and not ignore them,” Lahavi said.
Lahavi took office as deputy mayor a few months ago and has since been promoting a number of issues pertaining to transportation and environment, such as reducing car use, expanding use of public transportation and regulation of electric bicycle operations, her office said.
The population density and proximity to sources of pollution is exposing members of the public to poor quality and endangering their health, Lahavi argued.
In her letter, Lahavi mentioned that amendment 84 of the Traffic Ordinance called for several municipalities, including Tel Aviv, to prepare urban air pollution reduction programs in coordination with the Environmental Protection Ministry’s air quality division.
While Tel Aviv’s program received approval from the Environmental Protection Ministry, it still has neither been promoted nor approved by the Transportation Ministry, she added.
A State Comptroller’s report released two weeks ago similarly took issue with the attitude of the Transportation Ministry to the preparation of these municipal programs.
After identifying problems with Tel Aviv’s plans to restrict transportation in portions of the city, the national traffic controller issued an order in April 2009 declaring most main streets in the central region “critical routes,” the report said.
“Because the reduction of air pollution is one of the principle and prominent banners that the Environmental Protection Ministry is promoting, and given that the issue of pollution from transportation is the responsibility of the Transportation Ministry, under the framework of a discussion we can consider the various issues – with a goal of bringing about the implementation of programs to prevent air pollution from transportation in practice,” Lahavi said.
In response to the letter, Environmental Protection Ministry representatives said they are taking part on Monday and Tuesday in a seminar on exactly this subject, in cooperation with the European Union.
Organized by the EU Commission’s Technical Assistance and Information Exchange (TAIEX) as well as the ministry, the seminar is focusing on establishing areas of restricted vehicle traffic in urban settings – otherwise known as low emission zones.
Members of the ministry are attending the seminar – in Jerusalem – and are addressing topics such as air quality in Israeli cities and transportation emissions, mitigation of nano-particles from diesel bus emissions and air quality monitoring.
The European experts are advising them on how to optimally establish low emission zones, using standards and solutions from cities such as Berlin, London and Lisbon as examples, according to information from the seminar.
Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz is promoting the implementation of pollution prevention programs and low emission zones within his office, a ministry spokesman told The Jerusalem Post.
While fully integrating such programs will likely need to come from a national legislative level, the ministry plans to begin with Jerusalem, followed by Tel Aviv and then other densely populated cities, the spokesman said.
The Transportation Ministry did not provide a response by press time.