The Environmental Protection and Agriculture ministries must increase their
surveillance of pesticide use, and the Water Authority must quicken its process
of expanding water desalination, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss’s 62nd
annual report disclosed on Tuesday.
In a chapter about environmental
protection in agriculture, the report examined the ways in which relevant
government bodies were regulating the usage of pesticides and
The most major weakness this section uncovered was the lack
of a data collection system, which would allow the relevant government
authorities to monitor the risks associated with pesticides and
Both the Environmental Protection and Agriculture ministries
must increase their surveillance of pesticide use, to ensure that Israel’s
regulations are up to par with those of other Western nations, according to the
In most Western nations, it is customary to conduct field surveys
and publish the types of pesticides used, but in Israel the quantity of
pesticides have only been examined twice – in 1998 by the Central Bureau of
Statistics, and in 2008 by a private entity, the report said.
response, the Agriculture Ministry argued that United States and European
nations actually only reevaluated their pesticide usage once every 10 to 15
years, because this time span was necessary to accumulate analysis material.
Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Ministry added that the Central Bureau
of Statistics was now conducting an updated, comprehensive survey.
report acknowledges that the country is committed to sustainable agriculture,
but also concludes that “Israel still lags behind,” and in part blames the
Environmental Protection Ministry’s “weakness as a regulator.”
response, the ministry stressed that as early as 2005, it had initiated new
regulations to restrict the presence of pesticides near buildings, parameters
that have brought Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) toxin inspectors to
monitor the problem.
Researchers at the Technion in Haifa are now
conducting a study regarding pesticide dissipation in the air, and in accordance
with these results, the ministry will consider changing spraying
Regarding its power of enforcement, the ministry said that
INPA inspectors report their findings to the ministry, which chooses to seek
criminal enforcement based on evidence.
In another chapter of
Lindenstrauss’s report, the State Comptroller’s Office evaluated the
government’s progress in establishing desalination
Desalinated water production stands at about 300 million
cubic meters annually, through three facilities – Ashkelon, Palmahim and Hadera,
according to the Water Authority.
Officials have not been effective
enough at translating decisions into actions, and therefore may not achieve the
intended goal of 600 million cu.m. annually by 2013, the report
For example, it argued, although a 2001 government decision
called for establishing a desalination plant in Ashdod by 2003, its construction
has not yet occurred.
“The government must ensure that the objectives for
coping with the water shortage will be achieved in the time prescribed for it,”
the report said.
The authorities must also ensure that a monopoly does
not occur in the desalination sector, it added. The company building the future
Sorek plant is a partner in three of the five current desalination projects, and
will be involved in about 70 percent of all desalinated water production in
2013, the report warned.
A final chapter examined how the Agriculture
Ministry has issued grants aimed at helping farmers purchase machinery that
would decrease their need for foreign workers, as well as improving water
infrastructure. While distributing many of the funds, however, the ministry
bypassed the restrictions of the 1980 Law for the Encouragement of Capital
Investment in Agriculture by issuing the grants from a separate,
Hundreds of millions of shekels, therefore,
reached farmers without obliging them to reduce their workers or significantly
improve their infrastructure, and some farmers have engaged in acts of water
profiteering at the expense of other farmers, the report said.
Agriculture Ministry said in response that it was working to fix the law so two
different funding tracks would no longer be necessary, the office also stressed
that all subsidies were executed legally and transparently, based on needs such
as water conservation and foreign worker reduction.