Earth Day: Israel's top 5 environmental woes

For a green country, there's plenty of room for environmental improvement in Israel.

April 22, 2018 10:20
2 minute read.
Firefighters use water to dilute ammonia leaking from a chemical plant

Firefighters use water to dilute ammonia leaking from a chemical plant. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Around the world, April 22 marks Earth Day, which celebrates the planet that has sustained life for millions of years.

In Israel, there’s plenty to applaud: innovative engineering has made a desert bloom and helped recycle water for crops. However, the country has had its fair share of setbacks, characterized mostly by a lack of rainfall and the lowering of the Dead Sea’s water levels.

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The Dead Sea

The lowest point on Earth, the Dead Sea straddles Israel, the West Bank and Jordan, and is a popular tourist destination. Its extremely high salt content allows for premium floating – and not much else. In recent years, the water level of the Dead Sea has dropped and the sea has decreased in size, leading to nearly catastrophic sinkholes.

The Sea of Galilee

In northern Israel, straddling the Galilee and the Golan Heights, is the Kinneret, Israel’s main water source. Like its sister sea down south, the Sea of Galilee has been a cause for concern because of its receding water levels. This winter though, thanks to heavy rains, the sea’s water level rose 1 centimeter. In a country where rain is seldom, that’s a cause for cautious celebration.

Waste management facility

Despite all of its environmental innovations, Israel is not ahead of the curve when it comes to waste management. For decades, the majority of waste has been disposed of by dumping it in landfills or burning it, which releases toxic fumes into the air. In 2017, however, Israel turned over a new leaf by converting a waste facility into an alternative energy producer, effectively making garbage green.

Desalination plant

One of Israel’s most important ecological inventions has been its desalinization plants. These facilities effectively recycle water, making it reusable. This is especially crucial for Israel’s farming industry and, when combined with drip irrigation methods, can save hundreds of millions of gallons of water per year. However, it does have some deadly side effects: recycling water drastically lowers its magnesium content, meaning Israelis must consume the mineral elsewhere.

Chemical and waterwaste piped through the desert

From Haifa’s chemical plant to massive Lag Ba’omer fires, Israelis are polluting the air constantly. Last year, chemical waste from the Rotem Amfert plant contaminated a popular tourist site. MK Yael Cohen Paran noted earlier this year that Israeli cities are among the most polluted in Western countries. Each year, some 200,000 combustion-engine cars are added to the already-clogged roads.

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