Paz-Pines: Evacuate areas polluted by Ramat Hovav

Proposal made amidst halt in construction of new IDF 'training base city' near pollutant facilities.

Ramat Hovav 298 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Ramat Hovav 298
(photo credit: Courtesy)
MK Ophir Paz-Pines (Labor) has proposed a law to immediately relocate all those who live in areas known to be affected by the pollution from the Ramat Hovav Industrial Park. Paz-Pines, who heads the Knesset Interior and Environmental Protection Committee, called on all members of the committee to support the law during a discussion on Tuesday about the IDF training base due to be built at the Negev Junction by 2012. "The plan is there. The money is there. They have a place to go to. There is no reason to delay," he said. The proposal, he explained, called for "a voluntary relocation, not one forced upon residents by decree." Construction on the training base will be delayed until at least the next court appearance on December 6 after the Union for Environmental Defense (UED) got another temporary injunction, UED head Tzipi Iser Itzik told the committee. In reply, the Defense Ministry invited the UED to participate in the oversight process for the base, and Paz-Pines suggested that the committee work to set up that meeting between now and December 6. Meanwhile, IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that the base was necessary for the IDF to establish a greater presence in the south of the country. "Many of the complaints over the base have already been addressed, while others are under consideration," said Ashkenazi. He added that the Health Ministry would present a report this January outlining concerns associated with the base. The Defense Ministry's representative to the discussion also said that he felt that "we don't understand one another." "We checked the threat level [from the pollutants] and we came to a totally different conclusion [than the environmental groups]," he said. The IDF's chief medical officer, Brig.-Gen. Nachman Esh, said that if the cleanup deadlines for 2010 were not met by then, he would put his foot down and not a single soldier would enter the base. Yossi Ziv, director-general of the Ramat Hovav industrial council, disputed the environmental guidelines to which Ramat Hovav is held. "We are held to 'worst case scenario' standards, whereas in other parts of the world that standard is more lax," he told the committee. Ziv also declared that Ramat Hovav had a better pollution rating in the last 30 months than Jerusalem, Ramat Hasharon and Tzrifin, the IDF training base near Rishon Lezion. The green groups vociferously disagreed with him, and Shai Tachnai, of the Society for the Preservation of Nature in Israel (SPNI) even went so far as to suggest an alternative site for the base. "During a meeting in 2004, we discussed alternative sites and one of them was south of Dimona. It is much better. It's already hooked up to utilities and is already easily accessible," Tachnai said. A UED doctor unequivocally declared that Ramat Hovav could not possibly meet the new environmental standards currently being drafted by 2010. "It takes a decade or a decade and a half to meet the new standards and implement the technology," he said. Paz-Pines concluded by saying that the committee "is in favor of the army base as long as the pollution is taken care of." Sheera Claire Frenkel contributed to this report.