For green advocacy giant Adam Teva V’Din (the Israel Union for Environmental
Defense), the most pressing environmental issues of 2012 will be cleaning up
contaminated waste sites and minimizing air pollution, the organization’s
directors told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
“Our main focus will be
about hazardous materials, toxic materials, and also about clean air,” executive
director Amit Bracha said.
In the realm of toxic waste sites, the
environmental organization will be focusing its efforts on stopping the
impending development of a new neighborhood in “Taas City,” a former Israel
Military Industries complex in the nation’s Center, and will be monitoring the
clean-up work being performed on a similar site in Jerusalem’s Beit Hakerem
Meanwhile, although the Clean Air Law – originally drafted
by Adam Teva V’Din – was officially passed in 2008, the government didn’t
formally enact it until this January. In the coming months, the green group will
be pushing for its further implementation across the country.
just building up our clean air watch team, which is supposed to see that the
implementation is being done correctly,” Bracha said. “We are very much afraid
that... the regulations won’t be implemented as they should be.”
nearly a decade, according to development director Fran Ran, the
law-in-the-making has been Adam Teva V’Din’s “baby.” It came about with the help
of US Congressman Henry Waxman, whom Bracha called the “father” of the American
Clean Air Law.
“It may have been tough, but it has paid off,” Ran said,
noting that creating the law had required uniting many small things that were
once part of different authorities, under the umbrella of the Environment
“It made [the government] acknowledge that we were a very
respected and powerful force and that it was better for us to be partners,” she
In the coming year, Bracha said, the organization would be checking
to see that companies and industries were actually complying with the Clean Air
“We’ve got to be the watchdog on air and make sure that
the Clean Air Law is implemented properly,” Ran added.
group will also be focusing on getting new regulations for transportation
emissions on the table, she said.
Unlike the clean air issue, an
initiative against contaminated sites has yet to pass into law, and a bill is
currently awaiting second and third Knesset readings after passing a first
reading this August.
Aside from providing a framework for toxic site
cleanup, the bill suggests that financial incentive be provided to builders
interested in developing – and cleaning – the areas, Ran
“There are... more than 3,000 contaminated sites in Israel –
contaminated from industry work, army work and from factories, of course,”
“So a lot of toxic materials are underground in the soil and
the groundwater. Throughout the years, we’ve taken a lot of legal action against
the state, saying that the state has the responsibility because they are the
ones who run the place and do the work, mostly through the army
But after seeing that the legal action was insufficient, Adam
Teva V’Din decided that there needed to be a policy overhaul – legislation that
would change contaminated sites systematically through a “polluter pays”
principle, Bracha explained.
On the group’s upcoming agenda are two major
sites, the first of which is a planned development on former Taas Israel
Military Industries land, which includes portions of Herzliya, Ramat Hasharon
and Hod Hasharon, according to Bracha.
“The new plans for building new
neighborhoods should take into account that the sites are contaminated and there
shouldn’t be any development until a cleanup is made,” he said.
industrial sites there – most of which opened in the 1950s and closed down in
the past five years, though a couple are still open – poured contaminants into
the ground that could be potentially dangerous for future inhabitants if not
eradicated, he and Ran explained.
“There hasn’t been a comprehensive
environmental survey to show what’s in the soil or what’s in the water,” Ran
“You could have a situation where there could be a development of
2,000 houses and 50 meters away there could be severely contaminated land and no
one knows what’s in it.”
However, a few weeks ago, the National Planning
Council authorized the plans – a decision that Adam Teva V’Din and local
activists intend to combat formally in the near future, according to
“Israel is the size of New Jersey – it’s terrible when you think
about all those brown fields,” he said, calling the fenced-off Taas area “one
big brown field.”
But Taas is hardly the only “brown” zone on the
“The other one is Beit Hakerem, where we managed to
stop the development there,” he said. “They are just now starting to do the
Six years ago, Adam Teva V’Din, along with local residents,
stopped a development from going up in the valley between Beit Hakerem and Givat
Ram, where the groups argued that the soil was filled with toxic chemicals due
to a munitions plant located there.
As a result of that battle, Bracha
said that the Water Authority and the Environmental Protection Ministry were now
cleaning up the area – a job that the group intends to continue
“We are not against development,” he said. “When you clean up
and develop [a formerly contaminated area], you don’t damage other open spaces
in Israel... but you need to clean it up first.”