Environmentalists protest discharge of pollutants into sea

"This is our way of adding to the pressure," said Sagit Rogenstein, national project director of Zalul.

beach polution 298 (photo credit: Sagit Rogenstein)
beach polution 298
(photo credit: Sagit Rogenstein)
Some 150 people including activists from the Zalul Environmental Association, surfers of all ages and Labor MK Ophir Paz-Pines protested on Monday against the Permit Committee for Discharge into the Mediterranean Sea, claiming that the committee isn't doing enough to stop the discharge of pollutants into the sea. "This is our way of adding to the pressure," said Sagit Rogenstein, national project director of Zalul. The demonstration took place outside the Tal Hotel in Tel Aviv where the committee was meeting to implement guidelines limiting discharge into the sea from land-based sources, as outlined by the Barcelona Convention of 1976, to which Israel renewed its participation in 2001. Carrying signs saying, "Pollution in the sea, poison in our blood," the protesters themselves were mostly present because they have had actual physical illness due to pollution discharge into the sea. "Every time I go surfing near the Tel Aviv beaches I feel sick afterwards," said Israeli kite-surfing champion Hagit Oz, citing nausea, acne-breakouts and diarrhea as a few of the symptoms she most frequently experiences. Currently, there are 108 municipalities and factories holding permits to discharge into the sea, and the Permit Committee's purpose, according to Zalul, is to reduce the number of permits issued and encourage the factories and municipalities requesting permits to use the best available technology for waste disposal, eventually eliminating discharge into the sea altogether. The activists protested that, while Israel is upholding the agreement on paper, the Permit Committee was not doing enough to put pressure on factors and municipalities requesting extensions on their discharge permits. Paz-Pines, who was the keynote speaker of the event, told The Jerusalem Post "We are protesting that people are paying with illness and sometimes their lives for this pollution. [The Permit Committee] makes us sick and we are sick of them." He explained that the Permit Committee currently has eight members, only one of whom is a representative from a "green" organization. Part of the purpose of the protest was to add a second "green" representative to the committee. "I think [the protest] was effective. It's very important for them to know how we feel. We demanded that they give us reports on their decisions. We want to know exactly what's going on inside the committee… every permit they give the factories to pollute, we have to pay the price for that, and we hold [the Permit Committee] responsible," Paz-Pines said. Zalul claimed that Environment Minister Gideon Ezra sat in on the Permit Committee meeting - which he does not usually attend - after hearing about public outcry.