The Environmental Protection Ministry should start using more low-cost enforcement tools to generate immediate effect, a study released on Monday recommends.
After reviewing data from 2000 to 2006, Dr. Or Karassin of the Environmental Policy Center at The Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies found that the ministry inevitably embarked on long legal battles with suspected polluters.
But at the end of the trials, fines were insignificant and jail time was rarely handed down. Just one percent of cases ended with a jail sentence and just 3% ended with a suspended sentence, thus removing potential jail time as a deterrent.
Moreover, the fines did not reflect the cost of the damage nor the profits of the defendants, Karassin found.
Enforcement has been a sore point with the ministry for quite a while. A recent State Comptroller's Report lambasted the enforcement efforts of the ministry. In its defense, there are only about 30 inspectors to cover the entire country and all types of pollution.
For example, just one in 1,000 illegal dumpers of construction waste was actually caught, Karassin found. Since increasing policing activities would require a 330% increase in budget for the enforcement unit, she looked at other methods of deterrence.
Karassin suggested the ministry use far more rehabilitation orders. Only 107 were issued on average per year, representing 14% of the enforcement unit's activities. She suggested that it could be an effective tool to clean up pollution.
Similarly, Karassin suggested confiscating equipment used to pollute, which has an immediate detrimental effect on a company and also removes the means to continue polluting.
The public embarrassment inherent in polluting should also be played up as much as possible, according to the report. Those sentenced should be forced to publicly reveal how they polluted and to apologize to the public.
This was the first study that looked at this particular data set, the institute said.