A man casts his fishing line in the Mediterranean Sea on Zikim beach, near Ashkelon.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
After the Finance Ministry’s Planning Administration announced its initial proposals for a new Mediterranean coastal building scheme on Monday night, environmental officials expressed fears that such plans could endanger the country’s beaches.
The proposed plans, which the Planning Administration has submitted to other relevant government ministries, involves the Mediterranean chapter in the forthcoming National Master Plan (TAMA) 1. While the scheme would prohibit residential construction within 100 meters from the water, as is law today, the plans would enable building kiosks and other structures at only a 30-meter distance from the water.
Environmentalists are concerned that, not only does this new leniency violate the existing TAMA-13 for the Mediterranean, but that the kiosks could harm the beaches themselves.
According to the proposed plans, beaches would be divided into three categories: urban beaches, rural beaches, and nature reserve beaches.
Urban beaches would be those at the foot of coastal cities, whose main functions involve supplying recreation services, educational activities, sports, and tourism, the Finance Ministry said.
A rural beach would be one designated for development, near small communities or recreational resorts, while a nature reserve would be preserved as a nature and heritage site, the plans explained.
At each type of beach, residential construction would be forbidden within 100 meters of the water. However, promenades, kiosks, restaurants, educational facilities, and other specific structures would be prohibited only within 30 meters of the water.
“The chapter on beaches in TAMA- 1 will enable the preservation of natural values, landscape, and culture of the coast, while meticulously maintaining the prohibition against building along the coast, as well as the regulation of wanted and necessary uses of the beach, responding to the needs of leisure, tourism, entertainment, sports and marine education, and providing for critical infrastructure near the sea,” a statement from the Planning Administration said.
The proposal was coordinated by the senior director for national planning, Ronit Mazar, alongside a team from the Planning Administration and professional staff led by planning expert Moti Kaplan, the Finance Ministry said.
Environmentalists responded with fury to the plans, which are slated to be discussed among planning institutions next week.
The Israel Nature and Parks Authority argued that, should the new changes be adopted, they could have far-reaching consequences on the coastal environment and open up the sands to a flurry of business operations. Describing the proposal as allowing “unrestricted development complexes along the Israeli coast and within 30 meters from the water,” the authority emphasized the sensitivity and importance of the coastal environment.
“The INPA expresses great concern about the proposed changes and their implications on the rights of the public to enjoy the beach, nature and the landscape of the coastal and marine environment,” a statement from the authority said.
The Environmental Protection Ministry, meanwhile, emphasized that its officials likewise objected to the proposed plans during professional work meetings on the subject this week. The ministry, however, would only “form an official position after the administration finishes work on the program and following a debate among all the relevant bodies,” a spokeswoman added.
For its part, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel announced that it would be holding an emergency meeting of environmental organizations on the subject this Thursday, prior to the official discussions next week. In conjunction with Adam Teva V’Din (Israel Union for Environmental Defense), SPNI on Tuesday sent a letter to the Planning Administration chairwoman, demanding that the plans be removed from the agenda.