Multi-year program to curb air pollution launches

Environment Ministry unveils comprehensive plan which will save country half a billion shekels each year, according to ministry.

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December 11, 2011 07:16
2 minute read.
Haifa industry

Haifa industry 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimsky)

 
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The Environmental Protection Ministry is unveiling on Sunday Israel’s first comprehensive, multi-year national plan for preventing and reducing air pollution, which will save the country half a billion shekels each year, according to the ministry.

The plan, which is two years in the making and involved experts all over Israel and the world, comes under the jurisdiction of the Clean Air Act, and will be voted upon by the cabinet in a few weeks, a ministry statement said.

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Due to the fact that Israel’s population as well as transportation and industrial activities have grown so tremendously in the recent past, experts have predicted that the health effects of air pollution will cause hundreds of deaths and thousands of hospitalization cases in the coming years.Therefore, by implementing a new national program, the ministry predicted that the government will end up around saving NIS 500 million each year in treatment costs associated with morbidity and mortality from the pollution.

“Implementation of this program, which is made obligatory under the Clean Air Act, will provide an answer to the most serious environmental problem in Israel that is causing deaths of hundreds of people each year,” said Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan in a statement, noting that such plans have been adopted in most other Western countries years ago.

“Israel, which has become the most densely populated Western state in the world, must urgently implement the plan prepared by us in order to not reach serious levels of air pollution that exist in countries like China.”

At the current rate of growth in population and consequent air pollution, resultant health damages are expected to cost the economy NIS 7.8 billion per year by 2015 and NIS 8.5 billion per year by 2020, according to the ministry.

In the transportation sector, some examples of new policies to be implemented include an expansion of the vehicle scrapping program, as well as an increase in the amount paid for each vehicle; economic incentives for multi-passenger vehicles on tolled roads and hybrid taxis; and legislation to encourage companies to purchase less polluting buses. Along this line, the plan would introduce a pilot program in which three buses powered by natural gas are introduced into the Israeli transportation system.



Meanwhile, the program would also provide NIS 60 million in grants to companies to discourage their employees from using private vehicles.

In households, the new plan would encourage people to operate appliances at night, at a cheaper rate, when the overall electricity system is less stressed, as well as apply varying electricity rates depending on the volume of consumption and consumption hours.

Also critical to the plan would be updated standards for sulfur dioxide emissions as well as new regulations on reducing respirable particles from mines. The program would allocate tens of millions of shekels to expanding air pollution monitoring coverage on national lands, and would also mandate that the future Ashkelon power station be powered only on natural gas, rather than with coal as well, the ministry said.

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