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Residents, district committee petition court against new pumping station in Ein Kerem
By SHARON UDASIN
04/12/2013
“Ein Kerem and the surrounding cultural landscape constitutes one of the country’s most beautiful heritage sites in the country."
 
Residents of the Ein Kerem region and members of the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee have come together in a High Court of Justice petition against the National Infrastructure Committee’s decision to build a new water pumping station in Jerusalem’s “green lung.”

After the residents and local committee members filed the petition on Sunday night, a High Court associate justice immediately issued ordered temporary cessation of construction at the station, which is slated to pump water from the fifth water line in Ein Kerem.

The decision to file the petition only occurred after failed efforts to persuade the National Infrastructure Committee against the plan, the residents explained. They are now demanding that the committee consider alternatives that would have significantly less environmental impact on the area.

“Ein Kerem and the surrounding cultural landscape constitutes one of the country’s most beautiful heritage sites in the country and one of the last ones left,” said Ron Havilio, the leader of the campaign. “We hope that the court petition to the High Court of Justice will require a reexamination of the location of the station, in order to save a cultural landscape piece of the highest quality around Jerusalem.”

The approved plan to which the residents are objecting involves the construction of a water pumping station in the heart of Ein Kerem, near Tzomet Kerem, at the bottom of the hill on which the biblical vineyard house stands and adjacent to a planned metropolitan park and the Ein Kerem National Park. This area is full of ancient landscapes that include agricultural terraces and olive trees that are among the oldest in the country.

The pumping facility is supposed to be one of the largest of its kind in the country, encompassing 2.5 hectares (6.2 acres) and requiring the destruction of landscapes as well as noise 24 hours a day, electromagnetic radiation, high voltage poles, fences and a security lighting fixture, the residents said.

Despite the widespread resistance coming from residents, environmental groups, the Tourism Ministry and the Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Ministry, the plan received National Infrastructure Committee approval, according to the residents.

Although led by the residents of Ein Kerem and the Yuvalim Communities Administration, the petition also includes the Ein Kerem Community Administration, Moshav Beit Zayit as well as representatives of the Catholic Church, who are interested in protecting Christian holy places in the area. For example, the Our Lady of Zion Convent is located only about 450 meters from the planned station, the residents explained.

Jerusalem District Committee for Planning and Building members also joined in on the petition, stressing that the plan will severely damage the metropolitan park in Emek Motza-Ein Kerem, which was developed by the committee.

The petitioners contend that the decision to build one of the largest pumping stations in Jerusalem’s highest quality green lung is a violation not only to the residents of Ein Kerem, but also to all inhabitants of and tourists to Israel. The plans were approved, they argue, without sufficient examination of alternatives.

Also included in the petition is a professional opinion from engineer David Elkan, a water systems expert who headed the design of Jerusalem’s fourth water line.

Elkan agreed that an examination of alternatives, which could have significant economic and environmental benefits, did not occur at all.

In response to a query from The Jerusalem Post, an Interior Ministry spokeswoman said that her ministry will be filing a response to the petition at the High Court of Justice.

The pumping station, the spokeswoman explained, is part of Mekorot’s fifth water line and is designed to provide for the city and region’s water consumption through the year 2060. The station’s positioning is the result of a National Infrastructure Committee decision to move the water live from the Ksalon area in a deep tunnel to a higher level, in order to conserve nature and minimize harm to the hills of Jerusalem, she said. Previously, the site of the future pumping station held an old sewage treatment plant.

Only after an in-depth examination and comprehensive environmental analyses of 11 alternatives for nearly five years was the specific location chosen, according to the Interior Ministry. The Israel Nature and Parks Authority, the Environmental Protection Ministry, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, the Judea Regional Council and the Jerusalem Municipality were all involved in the selection process, the spokeswoman added.

“The general public was given the opportunity to make objections to the special investigator appointed for this purpose by the Interior Ministry,” the spokeswoman said. “The researcher was convinced that the alternative chosen is the best alternative, and it is preferable from landscape considerations as well over the alternatives proposed by the petitioners.”
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