The government’s planned route for the Eilat railway will be destructive to nature and landscapes that have thrived since the biblical era, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority announced on Thursday.

Ecological reports from INPA and an economic assessment by Prof. Ezra Sadan, a former director-general of the Finance Ministry, indicate that establishing the railway as planned would be “a fatal blow in the Negev,” the authority said.

“The Negev is the last refuge of many animals... and also the last haven for millions of travelers, who wish to connect to simplicity, and to the primeval beauty of the Negev wadis” a statement from INPA said.

If the government moves forward with its intended plans, ramparts will reach heights of up to 50 meters – equivalent to the height of 17-story buildings – spread over lengths of many kilometers, the INPA explained. In addition, the project would involve the construction of multiple bridges and the flattening of open spaces, as well the establishment of about 14,000 electricity polls and fences surrounding the tracks.

In order to avoid such destruction, the INPA has proposed two alternative routes with only slight differences from one and other.

Emphasizing environmental protection, the proposals involve quarrying an underground tunnel that would leave the surface untouched and would not damage the desert land.

Experts from the authority have worked together – for months – with those from the Environment Protection Ministry, in cooperation with local and international planning teams, to develop a more eco-friendly alternative.

“A railway construction project is for 100 years – it is forbidden that temporary considerations will cause us to lose and destroy nature and landscape forever,” the INPA statement said.

In response, the Israel National Roads Company said the current plans will reduce pollution by trucks and cars, and boost local businesses.

“[It] will help millions of citizens of Israel, especially the hundreds of thousands of residents of the South, the Negev and the Arava,” the company added.

Environmental, human, economic, and engineering considerations were taken into account during the planning processes. Additional billions of shekels would be required to implement INPA’s suggestions, which could lead to the cancellation of the entire project, the Committee said.

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