Baby moses at the Yarkon_311.
(photo credit: Reuters/Gil Cohen Magen)
Although the Environmental Protection Ministry has made considerable
achievements in stream and river rehabilitation in the last 20 years, Israel’s
rivers and streams would take another 100 years to fully recuperate at the
ministry’s current rate of investment.
This conclusion, among many
others, highlighted the environmental chapter in the State Comptroller’s report,
which focused on the rehabilitation status of the country’s 31 major rivers and
streams. The ministry – which oversees rehabilitation efforts in corporation
with the Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry, the Water Authority and
local river and drainage authorities – must shift river restoration to a higher
status among its list of priorities, the report said.
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While the ministry
has had particular success with the Yarkon and Kishon rivers, as well as the
Alexander Stream, it has never been able to establish an overarching set of
parameters to track the restoration progress of such bodies of water, according
to the report.
“After 20 years of work, it’s impossible to point to even
one stream in Israel that was rehabilitated entirely,” the report
According to a National Plan for the Rehabilitation of Streams,
issued by the ministry in November 2008, proper rehabilitation for Israel’s
rivers and streams requires an investment of NIS 2 billion, but the average rate
of annual investment from the Environmental Protection Ministry between the
years 1998-2010 was NIS 9 million, about half of the total investments of the
other participants in the rehabilitation effort.
“Assuming the rate
remains the same, it would take another 100 years to rehabilitate Israel’s
rivers and streams,” the report said.
Stream rehabilitation is a process
that can span decades, as it requires water purification, ecological restoration
and improvements to damaged zoological systems, the report explained.
report also highlights the fact that the current organizational structure of the
rehabilitation system lead to “fragmented responsibility.” Namely, the
Environmental Protection Ministry is responsible for the rehabilitation of
rivers and streams, but the most important action – in the state comptroller’s
opinion – the rehabilitation of the water itself, falls under the jurisdiction
of the Water Authority.
Meanwhile, actually carrying out the work falls
under the auspices of the individual drainage authorities, whose work can be
authorized by the environmental protection minister but is subject to the
approval of the agriculture minister. As it stands, transforming a plan into
action requires the “integrative action of the relevant ministries” and a
balance of all their interests, the report said.
The state comptroller
also criticized the ministry for having very few substantial plans for future
stream and river rehabilitation, and for being far less active about this
subject than it was in the 1990s.
The report also expressed concern that
since rehabilitation efforts require so much participation from other government
bodies, environmental considerations during restoration process are often
neglected. For this reason, among others, the state comptroller recommended that
the ministry consider initiating changes in the organizational structure of the
system, as well as in the status of river management, in order to legitimize its
decisions and increase its influence.
In addition to pointing out
efficiency issues, the report also focused on the physical process of water and
Today, two main mechanisms exist for
rehabilitating rivers and streams – the first of which entails creating a
man-made system for upper drainage runoff, the report explained. In the past
decade, the prevailing Western attitude has shown that this method is of limited
efficiency and very expensive, but its is still the customary technique used in
Israeli rivers and streams. The more preferable scheme is an ecological
approach, which limits construction in the river and prevents intervention, in
order to prevent the disturbance of growth areas and promote hydrological
Lastly, the report says, the ministry must shift the focus
of more of its projects to improving the water ecology and restoration of
natural habitats within the streams and rivers themselves, rather than working
predominantly on repairing riverbanks. Thus far, the projects have mostly
focused on the cultivation of riverbanks, surrounding parks and bike paths,
which achieve a more instant gratification but are no means the best long-term
“As long as sewage still flows into the rivers, rehabilitation
is far from complete,” the report said.