Worries of construction will encroach on Israel's beaches ahead of Knesset vote

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March 27, 2016 19:17
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Environmental groups are up in arms ahead of an upcoming Knesset vote that could pave the way for allowing expanded construction at beaches all along Israel's coast.

On Monday, the Knesset's Internal Affairs and Environment Committee is slated to vote on a second and third reading of legislation that would alter sections of the National Master Plan (TAMA) 1, originally proposed by the Tourism Ministry.

The most controversial changes would define hotels as "national infrastructure" and allow construction less than 100 meters from the water, as it is today. Part of the legislation would also place approval for beachside construction under the authority of a Planning and Building committee in the Finance Ministry, instead of under Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon.

Environmental groups are worried that this will allow construction plans to get approval faster than is currently possible.

If it passes, the legislation could give real estate developers a "fast pass" to build hotels and housing at beaches and "sensitive nature sites" around the country, said Dov Greenblatt, spokesperson from the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.

Inbar Margolis, from environmental NGO Green Course, said that in addition to the "serious environmental damage" that come about with expanded beachside construction, it could also privatize formerly-public beaches and encroach on public beach space to the point where it becomes unusable.

She said added that the legislation would allow for "uncontrolled construction" and hamper efforts to do proper ecological and archaeological assessments prior to construction because building plans would be approved much faster.

Green Course is already organizing a protest outside the home Kahlon in Haifa on Friday morning.

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