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Photo by: Ariel Jerozolimsky
Activists to distribute clean air at Haifa Stairs Race
By SHARON UDASIN
25/05/2012
Green Course will be distributing balloons filled with clean air at the Haifa Stairs Race.
 
The clean air division of environmental movement Green Course will be distributing balloons filled with clean air at the Haifa Stairs Race this Friday morning, the group announced on Wednesday.

Due to the severe amounts of air pollution around Haifa, caused in large part by emissions from bay-area factories, Green Course members decided that they must launch an emergency operation in order to provide residents with fresh air, the group said.

The route of the race, which includes 1,075 stairs, covers 3.5 kilometers from the city’s Port Campus to Gan Ha’am in Carmel, and spans a height of 280 meters, according to the city of Haifa. Not only will race-finishers receive customary water bottles at the end of their paths, but they will also receive balloons filled with clean air and detailed information about the air that they inhaled through the duration of the race, Green Course said.

One of the main sponsors of the race – in addition to Radio Haifa, Holmes Place, Egged, Dan Hotels, Yes and Maccabi – is Bazan Oil Refineries Ltd. (ORL). Green Course called the participation of ORL “ironic” as it is a significant air polluter of the region, according to the group.

Throughout the race, activists will present data for runners and residents about the high morbidity rate in the Haifa Bay area, as well as the presence of asthma and cancer as a result of certain pollutants emitted from the factories, according to the group. Some members of Green Course will also take part in the race, wearing balloons that will display the names of different particulate pollutants that have thus far not been monitored in air quality tests, despite their extremely dangerous properties, the organization said.

“Praiseworthy events, like the organized racing days in Haifa, must be done hand in hand with activities that force the owners of burdensome factories in the bay to significantly reduce the air pollution that they emit,” said Aviv Zalts, the spokesman for Green Course Haifa.

“The Clean Air Law, which was enacted about two years ago, is still not being implemented almost at all. The city of Haifa as the governing body can impose fines on polluting factory owners and hitting them in their pockets will bring results and improve air quality,” he added.

In response, the criticized factory, ORL, said that it sees great importance in maintaining relationships with the population living near the factories, as part of its corporate responsibility and long-term vision. The group has for a long time been working in partnership with Radio Haifa and the municipality in order to promote environmental awareness, and many of its employees will be participating in the race.

“The group has been part of the community for decades and acts on behalf of Haifa and its residents,” a statement from ORL said.

“Contrary to popular misconception among the public, the air quality in Haifa is good and is similar and oftentimes better than the air quality in most major Israeli cities.”

The company stressed that it works in accordance with ministry regulations and has very strict operating conditions and environmentally sound technology. Since the company transferred from public to private hands, it has been operating according to a five-year strategic environmental plan at a cost of billions of shekels to the company, due to the importance of environmental issues, the firm said.
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