Threats to open areas are ever increasing as the government’s inclination to
protect the public interest simultaneously decreases, according to a report
released by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel on
This year, SPNI identified 110 such threats – 12 more than last
year – of which 22 are brand new issues that emerged in 2011, according to the
fifth annual report on Israel’s Planning and Building Threats to Open
Most threats in this year’s report fell in the categories of
urban development and new settlements – 41 – and transportation infrastructure –
Other threats occur in the energy sector, water infrastructure,
agricultural development, and the tourism industry.
The government seems
to be favoring private enterprises over the general public in its planning and
building decisions, the report’s author says, calling it “a very disconcerting
“Despite the number of successes in 2011, we have witnessed a
continuous rise over the years in the number of threats – from 81 threats in
2009 to 110 this year – an increase that indicates a progressive and strong
pressure on open areas in Israel,” SPNI vice president Nir Papay
Within the settlements category, the new threats to open spaces are
Shibolet and Shezaf – two Negev communities in the works – both of which
indicate a larger problem of authorizing new construction in open spaces rather
than enriching already established places, both Papay and Itamar Ben- David, the
report’s author and SPNI planning director, told journalists at a press
conference in Tel Aviv on Monday.
Plans for urban sprawl that endanger
local wildlife and open areas in existing cities include expansion in Yokne’am
Illit at Nahal Hashnaim, residential development at the Herzliya Marina,
construction plans for Givat Koslovsky in Givatayim, development on Rishon
Lezion’s sand dunes, expansion of the urban center and establishment of an army
base in Lod, and building in Dimona near streams, which may compromise flora,
Ben- David said.
In the transportation sector, among the newly planned
threats encountered in 2011 are an entry road to Kibbutz Pelech, an entirely new
Road 20 in the Nahal Poleg region, the construction of train tracks between
Dimona and Eilat, and new maintenance sites for Israel Railways in the Nahal Bet
Arif, Yarkon and Mazor areas.
Energy hazards include onand- off plans for
a gas station in the Hananya Valley, oil drilling in the Central Israel Hills,
and wind turbine construction in both Biq’at Arad and Ramat Yotam, places where
turbines could disrupt migrating birds, according to Ben-David.
report takes issue with new threats to water infrastructure at Yokne’am Illit,
where residential development would disturb Nahal Hashnaim, the train
maintenance site plans for Nahal Beit Arif and the Yarkon River, as well as
proposals for water reservoirs in the Qula Forest and a waste dump in
The sole new agricultural threat pinpointed in this year’s
report is vineyard fencing in the Judean Hills, which is isolating
In the tourism industry, new threats posed include the Herzliya
Marina and Rishon Lezion sand dune development projects, as well as a plan to
close the Ein Maboa Spring and charge admission to the public visiting Wadi
Kelt, Ben-David said.
The report also indentified triumphant spots and
improved areas from last year.
Among the success stories are plans for a
vacation village in Acre, a two-lane expansion of Road 6 from the North to
Yokne’am, construction of residences and hotels near Nahal Nader on Mount
Carmel, a tourist site in Lahav Forest, the West Bank security barrier in the
Judean Desert, and the overflowing waters of the Dead Sea’s pool number
Existing threats that have shown dramatic improvement over the past
year include protection measures for the Shagor Nahal Reserve in the Lower
Galilee, temporarily nixed plans for a bridge at Nahal Kziv, canceled plans for
a vacation villages at Betzet Beach and the Nitzanim Sand Dunes, the likely
creation of an international airport in Netavim rather than in Megiddo, the
fight against a desalination plant in Kfar Masaryk, and illegal building in open
northern Negev space by Beduin, according to Ben-David.
“We hope we can
consider these as successes for next year,” he said, praising Environmental
Protection Minister Gilad Erdan specifically for his work in fighting the Betzet
Ben-David likewise expressed hopes that this year, more
environmental awareness will lead to far less illegal building by Beduin, whose
perhaps improved but continued illegal construction is still a visible problem
in the country’s open spaces.
Overall, however, both Papay and Ben-David
expressed pessimism for progress in protecting the country’s open spaces in
2012, especially since the power of local planning committees – and the voices
of the people – may soon be compromised through the probable enactment of
planning and building reforms, which would bring such responsibilities to the
Both men encouraged the public to use the report to get
in touch with the many businesses, organizations and government branches that
support the 110 threats, to prevent their implementation.
continue to promote sustainable development in Israel, strengthening cities,
advancing the urban renewal process and affordable housing, and therefore the
promotion and encouragement of resource allocation to nature reserves,”