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EU: Population growth along Israel's coast demands stronger environmental management
By SHARON UDASIN
05/13/2014
The Horizon 2020 Mediterranean Report presented in Athens is part of initiative aiming to de-pollute the Mediterranean by 2020.
 
Population growth and urbanization in Israel, particularly along the coastal plain, will necessitate continued measures to protect remaining open spaces as the country’s economy continues to grow, an EU report stressed on Tuesday.

The Horizon 2020 Mediterranean Report, published by the European Union’s European Environment Agency, was presented on Tuesday to environment ministers at a Union for the Mediterranean meeting in Athens.

The report is a product of the Horizon 2020 Initiative – dubbed H2020 – which aims to bring an end to pollution in the Mediterranean by 2020, targeting the sea’s main contaminants: Municipal waste, urban wastewater and industrial pollution. For the most part, the report’s authors praised Israel’s improvements in each of these categories and encouraged future steps.

Launched in 2006, H2020 receives funding from the EU’s European Commission through the Directorate-General EuropeAid and operates works in conjunction with the United Nations Environment Program Mediterranean Action Plan.

Although the programs bear the same name, H2020 is not related to the €80 billion Horizon 2020: EU Framework Program for Research and Innovation, which is funding research projects from 2014 to 2020.

The H2020 report concluded that countries bordering the south and east of the Mediterranean need to continually improve environmental management in order to reduce pollution in the sea. Specifically, the study checked the efforts of Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority and Tunisia.

While the report praised the countries for steadily increasing access to sanitation, it criticized them for only reusing about 1 percent of wastewater in the entire region. In addition, while solid-waste generation in the region is still approximately half the per capita level of the EU, trash production has grown by about 15% over the past decade.

Less than 10% of the waste collected in the region is recycled, and industrial emissions continue to have a heavy impact on the Mediterranean, the report added.

Looking at Israel in particular, the study’s authors found that the main drivers of environmental pressure are the population density and growth rate, which is close to 2% per year as of 2012.

Regarding solid waste management, the study revealed that Israel has gone a long way toward fulfilling its vision, which was defined as “from nuisance to resource.” The report particularly praised the Environmental Protection Ministry’s separation-at-source program, in which residents of participating municipalities separate their trash into three categories at their homes.

Industrial emissions are a major source of pollution in Israel, and tend to be focused in “hot spot” industrial zones, the report explained. The study found, however, that over the past decade there has been a dramatic reduction in direct pollution discharges into the marine environment, as well as a decrease in some industrial air pollutants.

While the main hot spot, the Shafdan sewage plant near Rishon Lezion, contributes between 75% and 98% of the total industrial discharge to the marine environment, the report noted that this source will likely be terminated by the end of 2015.

The study praised the increased amounts of drinking water coming from desalination plants, though it stressed the importance of monitoring the environmental impact of these plants.

Examining the categories of wastewater and sanitation, the report detailed how for the past decade Israel has been using treated wastewater to irrigate its agricultural sector, adding that more than 87% of wastewater undergoes secondary or tertiary treatment. In addition, major efforts are being undertaken to remove pollutants from rivers and return these resources to the public, the study said.

The authors’ recommendations for the future include upgrading all large wastewater treatment facilities to tertiary- level facilities, as well as treating all sludge to “Class A” standards.

“The plans for desalination and improvement of water treatment are dependent on great investment, which is subject to economic conditions and geopolitical circumstances,” the authors concluded.
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