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Parks Authority calls for budget to rehabilitate Carmel
By SHARON UDASIN
06/21/2012
Lindenstrauss alleges in report that Nature, Parks Authority hasn't done enough to prepare forest against future fire damage.
 
The Israel Nature and Parks Authority demanded the immediate enactment of a promised Carmel rehabilitation fund, in response to the state comptroller’s Wednesday report on the Carmel fire.

In the report, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss and his team alleged that together with the Interior Ministry, Keren Kayemeth Le Israel-Jewish National Fund and the relevant local authorities, the INPA had not done enough to prepare the forest against future fire damage – particularly by trimming the massive pine tree overgrowth.

Countering the charges in the report, the INPA slammed the government, stating that until this year, it had not had the authority to perform tree-clearing in areas defined as nature reserves and national parks unless it acquired prior authorization for these activities. This obstacle, which only changed well after the Carmel fire, prevented the authority from clearing the number of trees necessary to create a proper buffer zone for residences and vehicles in the forest. However, the INPA did succeed in acquiring some permits for tree-thinning and was able to cut down more than 30,000 of the pines in 2010 – an activity that saved the Carmel Forest Hotel from harm during the disaster, according to the organization.

Meanwhile, the authority said it had already established thinned-out buffer zones in the Khirbat Yunus area and along the road between Usfiya and Beit Oren.

Despite its need to continue thinning out the pine forests, the INPA stressed that there was no budget available for either the Carmel rehabilitation or preparation against future fires. The organization called on the government to make the necessary budget available immediately.

This past December, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan wrote a letter to Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, reminding him that a December 5, 2010, government decision concerning “the rehabilitation of fire damages” required the government to provide a NIS 55m. Carmel rehabilitation budget which all parties involved had already agreed upon last summer.

The money would be crucial to creating buffer zones in particularly fire-prone areas of the Carmel region, he argued.

Earlier last December, the INPA’s chief scientist Dr. Yehoshua Shkedy had likewise stressed that the authority still had not seen any of the NIS 55m. budget that it had been promised.

The INPA is obliged by law to preserve nature and heritage, and its inspectors cope with more than 250 fire incidents annually – most of these created by man, according to the authority.

In the six months preceding the Carmel fire, inspectors fought a series of fires that ultimately consumed more than 15,000 hectares of land across the country, including a giant wildfire that destroyed the Gamla Nature Reserve. In most of these incidents, however, the INPA was able to get the fires under control within hours and without causing much damage, due to its clear operation procedures and dedicated inspectors, who have often risked their lives trying to extinguish the fire, the organization said.
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