Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) has doubled his ministry’s budget for asbestos removal to NIS 40 million per year in an attempt to eradicate within the next two years the material that plagues the lungs of northern residents.Erdan made the decision after touring Nahariya with its mayor on Tuesday, where he witnessed firsthand the process and work that goes into removing the dangerous substance, his office said on Wednesday.“Every day that we advance the project, a human life is saved, and therefore, we doubled the budget designated for this year in order to double the pace of executing the hazard’s removal,” Erdan said in a statement released by his office.“This is a life-saving project that is undertaken through the leading professional standards in the world.”The Environmental Protection Ministry first began its asbestosremoval program last April in the Western Galilee, in which asbestos industrial waste is scattered over about 150,000 cubic meters of land, originating from the Etanit factory in Nahariya. Some of the waste had been used as bases for roads and paths in the region, many of which are now crumbling with asbestos exposed on their surfaces.Removing all of the asbestos from the area is expected to cost about NIS 300 million, and would originally encompass about five years. In addition to funds from the Environmental Protection Ministry, the project also receives financing from the local authorities as well as from the Etanit company, which is obliged by the April 2011 Asbestos Hazards Prevention Law to pay NIS 150,000 of the costs, according to the ministry. Doubling the budget coming from the Environment Ministry is expected to shorten the duration of the project, with completion achieved as early as 2014.The Etanit portion of the funding is not guaranteed, however, as the company has filed a petition to the High Court of Justice about the matter, the ministry said. But during Erdan’s meetings with local residents and mayors, he also requested that Etanit co-owner Mickey Federman, who also owns the Dan hotel chain, remove his petition and abide by the asbestos law.Since the inception of the law, the ministry has overseen asbestos eradication at 36 sites – 14.14 million cubic meters worth of waste – at a total cost of NIS 30 million, the office said.