Cars on a highway [illustrative].
(photo credit: REUTERS)
After the Haifa City Council made an unprecedented decision last week to ban the entry of polluting diesel vehicles from its center, the Environmental Protection Ministry called upon other cities to follow suit.
Joining 200 European cities that have already done the same, Haifa City Council members voted last Tuesday night to approve a bylaw to delineate “an area of reduced polluting emissions from transportation” – also known as a Clean Air Zone. Assuming the bylaw receives the authorization of the Interior and Transportation ministries, the legislation will empower Haifa officials to take action against polluting vehicles that venture into the city’s urban center.
“The ministry calls upon other cities to improve air quality in their cities and the health of their residents, and to adopt a similar policy toward promoting a Clean Air Zone and prohibiting the entry of polluting vehicles that have not installed filters to reduce air pollution,” a statement from the Environmental Protection Ministry said on Sunday.
As a result of recent air pollution orders issued by the ministry, particulate filters have been installed in about 320 Egged and Dan buses in the past few months, as well as in many municipal trucks in Tel Aviv, a statement from the ministry said. In 2017, about 700 filters are expected to be installed in vehicles in Haifa, as part of a NIS 11.5-million ministry program targeting diesel buses and trucks whose entrance into the Clean Air Zone would be prohibited.
The city of Haifa in particular has been waging war in recent years against the air pollution plaguing its population, a result of the significant amount of heavy industry operating in the bay region as well as mass transportation.
The enforcement of the Clean Air Zone is part of the larger National Plan to Reduce Air Pollution and Environmental Risks in the Haifa Bay Region, approved by the government in September 2015.
In the first stage, heavy diesel vehicles that weigh 3.5 tons or more will be restricted from entering the Clean Air Zone, according to the bylaw. In a second stage to follow, commercial diesel vehicles that weigh less than 3.5 tons will also be prohibited from the area. For operators of the polluting vehicles, filters will be offered at a subsidized price as a condition for entrance into the otherwise forbidden areas.
“The struggle for clean air in Haifa is a multi-stage struggle, whose essence is the fight against polluting factories and the aggressive reduction of emissions,” said Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav. “Our war against pollution from transportation does not detract for a moment from the war we continue to conduct against polluting industry.”