Litter on Mikhmoret Beach near Hadera..
(photo credit: ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION MINISTRY)
As the summer vacation comes to an end, tourists hoping to sunbathe on Israel’s famous Mediterranean shores may find themselves sharing the sands with garbage.
Only 47.4 percent of Israel’s beaches were deemed “clean” to “very clean” in the latest Clean Coast Index, a collection of measurements issued periodically by the Environmental Protection Ministry during the summer months. While the rating dropped from 48.5% two weeks ago and 58.6% two weeks before that, the country’s beaches still fared better than the 29% score they received during the same period last year, according to the ministry.
“The average user of the beach in Israel still acts as if someone is going to clean up for them,” Rani Amir, director of the ministry’s Marine Environment Protection Division, told The Jerusalem Post.
In addition to the garbage left behind by visitors, Israeli beaches also suffer from marine litter coming ashore from neighboring countries, like Egypt and Lebanon, as well as sewage from Gaza, Amir explained.
“Having said that, according to our estimates, 50-60% of the garbage that we find on the coast line comes from Israel,” he said. “This is why the Clean Coast program is more active than ever.”
Amir was referring to a program established in 2005, which includes the Clean Coast Index and a variety of other measures aimed at eradicating coastal litter – particularly at unauthorized beaches that lack lifeguard facilities. The program is based on six intertwined pillars: cleanliness, enforcement, publicity, education, monitoring of marine debris and reduction at the source, according to the ministry.
The ministry renewed the budget for this year’s Clean Coast program at the end of May, allocating NIS 2.3 million for a variety of enforcement and educational needs.
In this week’s index, the dirtiest beaches were Palmahim Sands in the Gan Raveh Regional Council, Central Nahariya Beach and the beach at Jisr e-Zarka.
Among the cleanest beaches was Sidney Ali Beach in Herzliya, which was one of the dirtiest two weeks ago.
The other exceptionally clean beaches were Betzet Beach in the North, Herzliya South, Hatzuk and Tel Baruch in Tel Aviv, Bat Yam, Nahal Sorek Estuary National Park and several beaches in Eilat, including Dag Sof, Sun Bay, Electric Company, Migdalor and Princess.
Although acknowledging that 2016 is definitely the worst year for beach litter, Amir stressed that the situation is by no means good.
“Even if you come after a storm, the sand is covered in waste,” he said. “The bright side is that the problem is not being ignored.”
The Environmental Protection Ministry, with the approval of the Education Ministry, has designed educational programs for elementary school students about marine litter, but the program is still lacking the funds necessary for implementation, Amir explained.
“It’s never enough, but I hope that with an increased budget we can do more,” he said.
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