(photo credit: URIA ASHKENAZY/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
Praising the Environmental Protection Ministry’s new emergency plan to mitigate pollution in the Haifa Bay region, Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav stressed that adherence to strict timetables and coordination among relevant ministries will be crucial moving forward.
“I feel that your decision to reduce air pollution and environmental risks in the Haifa Bay and the establishment of a joint special task force between the Environmental Protection Ministry and the Haifa municipality are steps that can bring great news to hundreds of thousands of residents of metropolitan Haifa,” Yahav wrote to Environmental Protection Minister Avi Gabbay on Sunday.
The mayor’s comments, distributed to the press on Sunday evening, followed the Environmental Protection Ministry’s announcement earlier in the day of the new emergency plan, which aims to reducing air pollution and environmental risks in the Haifa Bay.
The ministry published the main principles of the plan after Gabbay met over the weekend with Yahav and members of a task force appointed two weeks ago to formulate such a program.
The decision to initiate the task force occurred about a month-and-a-half after an explosion of media reports linking cancer incidence to air pollution in the Haifa Bay.
Citing Health Ministry data, the reports also indicated a heightened presence of childhood cancer in comparison to the rest of the country, and prompted drastic moves such as a mayoral decision to blockade the city’s biggest factories.
Among the main elements of the emergency mitigation program are stricter requirements for factories to use clean fuels, such as natural gas, and the reduction of polluting fuel types, the ministry said.
A second portion of the plan involves the cessation of new diesel vehicle operations in the Haifa Bay area, accompanied by the promotion of eco-friendly propulsion technologies such, as natural gas and electric methods, as well as the installation of particle filters on existing diesel vehicles.
The program also calls for the removal of a controversial ammonia container from the Haifa Bay and the evacuation of fuel tankers from Kiryat Haim. In addition, increased supervisory patrolling and spot checks would take place at factory chimneys.
As part of the plan, the Environment Ministry said it would also expand the number of air-pollution monitoring stations across the bay, as well as conduct further research and surveys to detect pollutants and examine their impact on public health.
Access to public information, with greater transparency, also would increase to provide residents with a wealth of data in simple and understandable terms, the ministry said.
Responsibility for implementing the plan’s elements is being divided among representatives from the Environmental Protection Ministry, the Haifa municipality and the Haifa District Municipal Association for Environmental Protection. The team members also will formulate a systemic bill on the subject for government approval, the ministry said.
“The situation in the Haifa Bay must change,” Gabbay said. “We are working together with the Finance Ministry, the Health Ministry and the local authorities on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of citizens of the Haifa metropolitan region who have a right to quality air and quality life. In the work plan, there are ideas applicable through cooperation among all the parties, which will bring about a significant change to the gulf.”