beach polution 298.
(photo credit: Sagit Rogenstein)
While the "Clean Beaches" campaign of the last two years has significantly improved the state of Israel's coastline, it has not yet achieved the revolution in public and municipal mindsets needed to keep the beaches clean, according to an interim report released by the Environmental Protection Ministry late last week.
Despite a public awareness campaign, people do not recognize that they are the main polluters of beaches. According to a survey conducted during the campaign planning, the respondents did think that the "public" was not good at cleaning up after itself, but that was offset by the notion that they and their families picked up after themselves.
Israel has 189 kilometers of beaches along the Mediterranean and the Red seas. They are divided into three categories: Designated beaches, closed beaches and open beaches. Just 10 percent, or 21 km., are "designated beaches." There are 135 km. of open beaches, 34 of which are the responsibility of the Nature and Parks Authority, and another 20 which are under Defense Ministry jurisdiction. The report and campaign focused just on the open beaches which, it said, had turned into the country's "backyard."
The report summarized the first two years of the three-year program and found that there had been significant improvement. After creating a standard and a scale for measurement ranging from "very clean" to "very dirty," the inspectors found marked improvement over the first two years. In 2007 most beaches were graded "clean" 72% of the time. However, the report noted, the transition from clean to "very clean" had yet to occur.
Plastics of various sorts were the most common garbage left behind by beachgoers (68%), and included bottles, nets, plastic bags, plates, and cutlery. Plastic also represented the biggest threat, because it breaks apart into smaller pieces and affects the food chain. In addition, plastic bags have choked to death many marine animals and birds.
The 70% benchmark had been achieved by the ministry providing financial support to the local authorities along the coast for hiring garbage collectors. During winter, collectors swept the beach twice a month and in summer they increased their activities to twice a week.
However, the report was skeptical about whether the local authorities had really accepted keeping beaches clean as their responsibility, even after the program ended and financial support from the ministry terminated. To meet that eventuality, the authors of the report recommended creating a Beaches Administration with a fixed annual budget of NIS 3.5 million, which would coordinate and lead activities.
On the public education front, the program will extend into the elementary schools this year, targeting fourth through sixth graders. According to the ministry's research, young children are more likely to absorb the message and encourage their families to pick up their trash.
While a 50-volunteer Beach Patrol was organized and trained, it was not yet a significant force, the report admitted. The ministry hopes to expand that number this year. It has also forged connections with local and national NGOs who have an interest in clean beaches.
The report concluded that while not yet the revolution that had been hoped for, a certain momentum had been created which should be preserved through regular clean-up efforts and educational and PR initiatives.
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