MK Miri Regev (Likud), chairwoman of the Knesset’s Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, decided to establish a subcommittee to investigate Haifa Bay environmental and planning issues, to be headed by MK Dov Henin (Hadash).
The move on Wednesday followed an extensive committee discussion on the expansion of oil refineries in the Haifa region and the health and environmental risks to residents. Subcommittee members are expected to include MKs Tamar Zandberg (Meretz), Hamed Amer (Yisrael Beytenu) and David Azoulay (Shas).
The subcommittee has been tasked with generating a recommendation for the Haifa metropolitan region regarding pollution and planning in the Haifa Bay area within three months, the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee’s spokesman said.
TAMA-30, a planning program for the Haifa Bay region, calls for the legalization of 250,000 sq.m. of industry that has been built illegally and the expansion of the refinery area by 670,000 sq.m., Henin said during Wednesday’s committee meeting. Some 2,200 professional objections have been submitted against the plan, but a subcommittee of the regional planning and building committee 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,” he said. “This is all the more so true as 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 referred to an incident on March 7 when a fire started at Haifa Oil Refineries’ Gadiv factory and burned for hours before hazardous materials experts arrived.
“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, said that TAMA- 30 will bring positive changes for Haifa residents, regulating refineries in a city “saturated with contaminants.”
“I would like a Riviera and not refineries,” he said.