A woman and a girl sit in front of the Mediterranean at the beach in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Finance Ministry’s National Planning and Building Committee on Tuesday approved the controversial National Master Plan (TAMA 1) that some say could pave the way for expanded beachside construction along the Mediterranean Sea.
Members of several environmental groups protested outside the building where the meeting took place and members of the Society for Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) spoke to the committee to express their opposition.
The ministry says that the plan would forbid “construction 100 meters away from the water, protect free public access for the length of the beach, preserve archaeological and nature sites and expand the possibilities for social activities like sports and recreation.”
However, they also added that the plan would “balance” development needs with public and ecological needs.
The most controversial changes in the plan, originally proposed by the Tourism Ministry, would define hotels as “national infrastructure.”
The legislation would also move approvals for beach-side constructions from Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon to the committee itself.
Environmental groups were very opposed to the plan, saying that the type of development that will take place along the country’s beaches will fail to deal with the country’s lack of affordable housing, one of the most debated issues in public discourse.
The SPNI, in a joint statement with Adam Teva V’Din – Israel Union for Environmental Defense – issued a joint statement in opposition of the plan. From their research, the statement said, the plan will affect 1,300 hectares (3,212 acres) of Israel’s coast as well as sensitive environmental areas. The latter group’s executive director, Amit Bracha, said that the decision goes against the public interest and will damage natural resources at “the country’s most important public property.”
Mor Gilboa, director of student environmental NGO Green Course, said that the approval will allow several beaches to be destroyed “for the sake of the wealthy and real estate developers.” The group has also expressed fears in the past that coastal development will lead to beaches become privatized and closed off to the public.