Representatives of the Green Movement demanded, in a letter sent to
Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan on Thursday morning, that he
immediately declare the Haifa Bay region as an area afflicted with air
Such a declaration would force the affected cities to create
and launch plans for air pollution rehabilitation within their jurisdictions,
according to the Clean Air Law.
In early November, the Environmental
Protection Ministry had prepared a draft version of a declaration that would
deem the Haifa Bay region as stricken with air pollution, according to the Green
Movement. The municipalities to be affected by this declaration included Haifa,
Kiryat Yam, Kiryat Bialik, Kiryat Motzkin and Kiryat Ata. However, with an
objective of maintaining fairness, the ministry passed the draft along to the
municipal authorities as a warning before issuing the decree, a Green Movement
After some discussions – and uproar from the city of
Haifa – the sides reached an agreement that the cities would instead present the
ministry with programs for reducing transportation pollution by April 15 of this
year, the Green Movement statement continued.
In the letter, the
movement’s two chairs, Prof. Alon Tal and Racheli Tidhar-Kenner, demanded that
the “dawdling” end and that a declaration occur immediately.
that this announcement will force the local authorities to treat in a serious
and responsible manner the industrial pollution hazards in the Haifa Bay, and
not allow them to evade their obligation of conducting an intensive treatment of
the air pollution hazards in the area,” they wrote.
As determined by the
Clean Air Law, approved in 2008 and enacted in January 2011, only two conditions
are required for declaring an area a victim of air pollution – the recurring
deviation from environmental values or abnormal occurrence of air pollution and
an opinion from the Health Ministry’s director-general stating public health or
environmental concerns, according to the movement.
Data from the
Environmental Protection Ministry has indicated that both of these conditions
have been fulfilled for quite some time, the group’s statement
“According to the law, the consent of the authorities in the region
is not a condition for declaring an area afflicted by air pollution,”
Tidhar-Kenner said in the statement. “It is apparent that setting clear goals
and requiring treatment of air pollution is not the interest of the local
authority, and this declaration is likely to be damaging the image of the
Moreover, Tidhar-Kenner argued, the plans that the ministry
has instead required the cities to submit focus solely on public transportation,
even though industry is also a huge source of air pollution.
even if there magically disappears sources of transportation pollution, the
Haifa Bay area will still remain in the form of an area afflicted by air
pollution from industrial sources,” she said.
“I would ask the minister
how he would feel if his wife was one of the hundreds of women who have had
miscarriages,” Tal told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday afternoon, noting that
the miscarriage rate in Haifa is 45 percent higher than the national
“I would ask him if giving them more time was a good
There is also an abnormally high occurrence of Hodgkins-Lymphoma
as well as asthma problems in the region, and breast cancer rates there are “off
the charts,” with one in seven women suffering from the disease, Tal said. He
stressed the importance that the ministry commit to a declaration as soon as
“We can use this as a tool to break the glass of the pollution
that has been suffocating people for a while,” Tal said.
In response to a
Post query about the Green Movement’s allegations, the Environmental Protection
Ministry said that it has completed the preparation of a detailed national
program to reduce air pollution and distributed it to government offices about
six months ago.
“Unfortunately, the government has not yet voted on and
approved the plan and this issue was discussed at the High Court in recent
days,” the ministry said.
The Environment Ministry is currently
undergoing discussions with the Treasury in order to reach an agreement that
will enable the realization of this program, on which an interministerial team
has been working for a year and a half, the response continued.
emphasized that by no means whatsoever has the declaration on the cities
afflicted by air pollution been cancelled,” the ministry said.
to enable the local authorities to work toward reducing air pollution in their
territories, it was decided to postpone this step only for a limited
Some have the municipalities have already submitted their air
pollution reduction plans, while others are in advanced stages of their
preparation procedures, the ministry explained.
“The ministry is closely
following the activities of the authorities on this matter and will consider the
declaration in accordance with their performance and progress,” the response
The ministry also stressed, however, that not all the blame belongs
to the cities themselves and that the Transportation Ministry must take steps to
reduce air pollution caused by vehicles, which are a major factor in
Green Course, an environmental organization that last Friday
distributed balloons filled with clean air at the Haifa Stair Race, likewise
said that the Environmental Protection Ministry must declare Haifa, as well as a
few other cities, as afflicted by air pollution.
spokesman noted, however, that because Green Course is a nonpartisan
organization, it is fighting a struggle independent from that of the Green
“In the year 2012, the State of Israel is stricken with air
pollution, ensnared in traffic jams, polluted by portions of the factories and
not promoting a sector for efficient solutions, whose sources are green energy,”
the Green Course spokesman said.
Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa all need
to be declared victims of air pollution, a notion that Green Course will be
declaring at a ceremony at Beit Dizengoff on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv on
Friday afternoon. Joining Green Course will be Adam Teva V’Din – Israel Union
for Environmental Defense, Greenpeace, the Coalition for Public Health,
Transportation Today and Tomorrow, Israel Energy Forum and 15 Minutes, an
organization for public transportation users.
“In Israel people are sick
and dying from air pollution, every year about 1,000 people, mostly in big
cities,” the Green Course spokesman said.
“We call on the Environmental
Protection Ministry, the regional authorities and the Israeli government to take
responsibility for the health of residents, to declare these cities as afflicted
with air pollution and promote programs to reduce air pollution.”