Site approved despite environmental concerns
Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel decries industrial construction at rare ‘ecological island’ in Ashdod.
Ashdod dunes where industrial zone set to be built Photo: Dov Gleenvlet/SPNI
Despite over 3,000 objections submitted by the public as well as several
alternative sites suggested not far from the area, the establishment of an
industrial zone in the sands of Ashdod was approved on Sunday, the Society for
the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) announced the following
The sub-committee responsible at looking at the complaints
failed to accept most of the objections filed by members of the public, SPNI and
the Public Forum for the Environment in Ashdod, according to SPNI.
response, the groups are evaluating the decision and considering taking further
action. For years, the two organizations have been promoting areas north of the
city, just a few kilometers from the sands, to establish the industrial area
“The establishment of a new industrial zone, in the sand dunes,
reduces the open spaces and nature, which are a habitat for a wide variety of
animals and plants,” a statement from SPNI said.
The plant that will
suffer perhaps the most will be the sycamore tree, which is actually among trees
promoted for preservation from Gush Dan to Ashkelon, according to the
“The coastal dunes, on which the industrial zone is planned in
Ashdod, are a unique living environment, unparalleled in Israel,” the SPNI
statement continued. “The uniqueness is due to a rare combination of factors
that create an ‘ecological island,’ in which dry soil conditions exist in a
Mediterranean climate. Most of the sand areas in Israel have already been
utilized for the construction of coastal cities, the development of industry and
for military installations. The remaining sand is being mined rapidly as raw
materials for building, and therefore, it is necessary to preserve what is
Dr. Boaz Shacham, of the Hebrew University’s Department of
Evolution, Systematics and Ecology, told The Jerusalem Post that the Nitzanim-
Ashdod sands region “has immense ecological value, and represents historically
the biodiversity and landscape diversity of coastal Israel.”
submitted an expert opinion to the committee to this effect in June. In the
region, for example, is the Buxton’s jird – an endangered rodent that is
actually endemic to Israel and the Sinai area, according to Shacham. Likewise,
several reptile species in the region also face a similar danger of
“At nearly 21 square kilometers, it is the largest surviving
block of sandy habitats of what in the past were circa 500 square kilometers of
such habitats, at the turn of the 20th century,” Shacham said.
less than half of these areas remain today, and less than 50% of the remnants
are protected areas.”
At the moment, the northeast corner of the sands,
where the new industrial area is planned, is relatively buffered due to the
groves of sycamore and acacia trees that surround it, he explained. The
development, however, will “invade these buffer zones, rendering them almost
useless as sanctuary for birds and gazelles,” Shacham added.
the trees, the developers will likely cause what Shacham calls a “hopscotch leap
of various threats and ill effects” to the protected sands. Some of these
effects will include stray domestic and wild predators, artificial illumination
at night and noise pollution, he said.
“There is a difficult conflict of
interests at play here,” Shacham stressed. “We are trying our best to represent
the natural resources, which should of course be protected and passed on to
In response to the situation, Yossi Lahmani, CEO of
the firm Abu Yechiel that is developing the land, said that “if you repeat the
lie a thousands times it doesn’t make it true.” Lahmani said that there were
really only two objections and not actually 3,000, and that the company has been
working on its plans for eight years rather than one year, in order to properly
address environmental concerns.
“It took eight years instead of one year
just because of the consideration of all the environmental issues, which were
finally settled with the Environmental Protection Ministry and [Keren Kayemeth
LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund],” Lahmani said.
“Everyone is happy and
He noted that even the person responsible for submitting the
SPNI objection was now satisfied, as the company coordinated everything with
Stressing that eight binders were filled with 400 objections each,
an SPNI spokesman said that there were, in fact, 3,000 objections and at least
two ecological experts likewise submitted reviews to the committee about the
importance of the land.
“SPNI will continue to work to protect the Ashdod
sand dunes,” the spokesman said.