Illegal quarrying costs state millions

Comptroller finds 5 million cubic meters of land were excavated without permits.

IDF bulldozer, road 298 (photo credit: AP)
IDF bulldozer, road 298
(photo credit: AP)
Five million cubic meters of land were illegally quarried in 2002 by farmers and contractors, the State Comptroller said in a report published on Wednesday. The quarrying was conducted without government permits. More than four million cubic meters of the land was located on state-owned property. The State Comptroller, Micha Lindenstraus, added that these illegal activities cost the state in two ways. It lost the revenue from the quarrying work, and it also had to pay to repair the damage to the land. Many government ministries, including the Agriculture Ministry, the Israel Lands Authority, the Ministry of National Infrastructure, the police and other government institutions all have responsibility for quarrying operations, wrote Lindenstraus. But he said that the division of responsibilities between the Agriculture Ministry and the other bodies has not yet been determined. The laws and regulations are not specific about the limits and definitions of the quarrying operation. For example, there is no definition for how deep the quarrying can go, and when excavations for legitimate agricultural needs pass the quarrying threshold. There is no regulation regarding how a farmer applies to the Ministry of National Infrastructure, the Israel Lands Authority, the local authorities or the Agriculture Ministry for a permit to quarry on his land. The State Comptroller uncovered situations where one of these bodies gave a permit without informing the other bodies. In one case, the Ministry of Agriculture approved a draining operation at Kibbutz Ga'ash. The plan had been to deepen an existing drainage system by another two to 2.7 meters. However, the drainage authority improperly approved a deeper operation. The contractor exploited the mistake to quarry 500,000 cubic meters of sand without a permit. The mistake cost the state NIS 6 million in revenues.