Environment Watch: Beach protection law not enforced

The Ministry of Environmental Protection is accused of failing to supervise the collection of fees

metro beach 88 224 (photo credit: )
metro beach 88 224
(photo credit: )
The so-called "beach protection law" turned three recently, but the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) says there is little reason for celebration, reports local.co.il. The society says the Ministry of Environmental Protection has failed to uphold the law in numerous ways, including supervision and enforcement, collecting fees from those causing environmental damage, allowing free access to all beaches and removing fencing. According to the report, the beach protection law was enacted after a long public campaign, led by the SPNI, to protect Israel's beaches from their "main threat" - pressure from developers for large-scale building along much of the coastline. The report said that since the legislation came into force, the Committee for the Preservation of the Beach Environment has been created as a sub-committee of the National Planning and Construction Council. The committee is charged with examining all beach-side building plans and has proved to be the "central tool" used to combat pressure from developers. The SPNI found that the committee does in most cases provide an "appropriate answer" for preserving the beaches. But it also found that the Ministry of Environmental Protection fails in many areas in which it is supposed to act. Among these, the legislation provides for the ministry to collect fees on legal beachside structures that harm the environment and use these fees for environmental purposes, yet the ministry has done nothing about this, losing "vast financial resources" in the process. Also, even though the minister has wide-ranging authority to prevent environmental damage at the beaches and act against offenders, to date no standards have been set that would enable him to do so consistently, and the ministry has taken legal action in just one case in three years. Similarly, there has not been one instance in which the ministry has removed fencing along beaches or acted to enable free access for the public. Even worse, although the committee has spoken out against beaches being closed off for private functions, the ministry has done nothing to prevent this phenomenon and it continues unabated. The report also targeted the country's security services, saying they occupy 31 km of beach, or 16 percent of the Mediterranean coastline, and even though they generally do not construct large buildings, there has been a rise in the "intensity" with which they use the land. The SPNI's report called the ministry's lack of action "unsatisfactory," saying that it hopes that the minister will begin to take the law more seriously and act against offenders. No response from the ministry was reported.