The Ministry of Environmental Protection's cleaning fund has approved the allocation of NIS 11 million to encourage the removal of asbestos-cement roofs and the installation of solar panels on their replacements, and of NIS 1 million for a "home contractor" to evacuate and clean asbestos hazards.
Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel said after the announcement that "Our new program is win-win, in which we replace the carcinogenic asbestos with renewable energy with environmental and economic gain.”
According to the ministry's estimates, there are currently about 85 million square meters of asbestos cement throughout the country - most of which are applied as roofs on private homes, public buildings, agricultural buildings, industrial buildings and in IDF bases. Many of the roofs were installed between 1960-1980 and have decayed and broken up over time through exposure to the elements or because of negligent and illegal dismantling.
Today, about 1.3 million square meters of asbestos cement are disposed of properly but there is little incentive to remove the hazardous material safely, especially when renovating old buildings and for the installation of solar electricity.
Through inspection it was found that the barriers to installing a solar panels in a building with an asbestos roof are mainly bureaucratic and the procedure to remove asbestos legally also presents an obstacle for the owner of the roof. Awareness over the viability of solar electricity was also found to be low.
The Environmental Protection Ministry has, therefore, decided to issue a bid to "Asbest2PV Agents" - consulting and marketing companies, who will be selected through a tender to provide a nationwide service to raise awareness of the national, global and individual benefits of switching from asbestos to solar (photovoltaic - PV).
The additional NIS 1 million budgeted for the "Home Contractor" service offers a contractor employed by the Ministry of Environmental Protection to evacuate and clean sites where there are asbestos hazards in lower socio-economic classes, and in emergencies.
A hazard can develop from asbestos dust that contains fibers which if inhaled can cause various diseases, including lung cancer.
By law, the property owner is obliged to evacuate the asbestos hazard, but in properties owned by people who are unable to pay for the removal of the hazard, the office contractor will be called to remove the hazard in line with the criteria set by the ministry.