|Haifa air pollution 370.(Photo by: Thinkstock/Imagebank)|
Public Health Coalition slams gov't on air quality
By SHARON UDASIN
NGO criticizes Environmental Protection Ministry for abandoning Clean Air Law as well as public health.
The Public Health Coalition slammed the Environmental Protection Ministry, in a
report released Sunday, for failing to live up to its commitments as prescribed
in the Clean Air Law.
Two years after the Clean Air Law came into force,
the NGO criticized the ministry and the government at large for abandoning the
law as well as public health.
The Clean Air Law came into force in
January 2011, and the law required the implementation of a National Air
Pollution Reduction Program within the following year. While planned by the
Environmental Protection Ministry, the program has yet to receive government
approval – a failure that the Public Health Coalition reiterated is “against the
“There is real concern that in light of the upcoming elections, the
program will be dissolved and not even implemented, or will be approved
eventually in a truncated version that will not achieve the goals of the
program,” a statement from the NGO said.
“The Environmental Protection
Ministry is afraid to intervene and to implement environmental aspects in fields
that concern other ministries, such as public transportation, motor vehicles,
natural gas and electricity.”
Despite the recommendations of an expert
committee as well as clear cost-benefit analyses, the program has yet been
unable to receive authorization, the report explained.
The report went on
to criticize the ministry for failing to take air pollution samples with as much
regularity as the office had promised, and went as far as to say that the low
execution rate actually “harms” the country’s decision-making
Meanwhile, the Public Health Coalition charged that the
pollutants monitored in Israel do not properly reflect the needs of public
health, with those already reduced continuing to receive monitoring in favor of
other more dangerous contaminants.
The NGO likewise slammed the ministry
for failing to provide easy accessibility to air quality data, only releasing
materials in raw form without explanation or interpretation.
also blasted the ministry for failing to deem Haifa a region plagued by air
pollution this year, despite its decision in 2011 to do so. In addition to
Haifa, the regions of Gush Dan and Jerusalem also must receive such a
In response, the Environmental Protection Ministry accused the
Public Health Coalition of presenting a paper strewn with
“While some people are busy writing a report that is not
clear upon what it is based, the Environmental Protection Ministry is working
and succeeding in reducing air pollution using a variety of tools,” a statement
from the ministry said.
For example, in the past year, the Haifa Bay
region has experienced a 43-percent reduction in air pollution from emissions,
in comparison to 2009, the year prior to the Clean Air Law, the ministry
As far as emissions from transportation are concerned, the
ministry launched an “all-out war” this year against the country’s plans for
natural gas export in favor of prioritizing the resource for use in
transportation at home, the office added.
The ministry said it maintains
a website open to the public, with real-time data from air quality monitoring
stations around the country. Feeding data to that site are 140 monitoring
stations operating 24 hours per day, which measure pollutants according to
European standards, the ministry said.
The Environmental Protection
Ministry can only declare the area as polluted when it is deemed to possess
“prolonged or repeated abnormalities” or if the directorgeneral of the Health
Ministry decides that the city’s air is polluted, the ministry said, citing the
Clean Air Law. Because Haifa does not qualify as a city whose abnormalities are
“prolonged or repeated,” without the direction of the Health Ministry, the
Environmental Protection Ministry cannot designate the city as having polluted
air, the ministry explained.
Looking specifically at the office’s work
against air pollutants in the Haifa Bay region, the Environmental Protection
Ministry also was instrumental in a historic decision for the future removal of
a massive ammonia tank from the city, the statement said.
“It is apparent
that the authors of the ‘report’ did not bother to check the Environmental
Protection Ministry website before spreading their claims,” the ministry
statement said. “By conducting a simple examination, they could have discovered
that all requests for factory emissions permits are published on the ministry
website for public viewing.”