'Report on Negev pollution would cause panic'

DHV Company argues against publishing report in front of Knesset Committee.

Negev great 224.88 (photo credit: Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Negev great 224.88
(photo credit: Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
A new environmental report on the Negev area surrounding the site of a planned IDF training base cannot be released to the public, because it would create "widespread panic," representatives from the DHV Company told the Knesset Committee on the Interior and the Environment Tuesday. In light of the government's plan to establish a large training base in the Ramat Hovav area, renewed attention has been given to long-standing pollution problems there. According to environmental NGOs, pollutants and fumes are expelled from waste-treatment pools in Ramat Hovav, and factories in the industrial zone cause poor air quality. "The pollution problems in the area have been known for a long time, but they've only grabbed headlines after it was announced that the army base would be built there," said Committee Chairman Ophir Paz-Pines. Beduin living in the area have long suffered from health complication resulting from the pollution, said NGO representatives at the meeting. While the Environmental Protection Ministry hired the DHV Company two years ago to track pollution in the Negev area, results of those reports have not been made public. "We do not want to release the report out of fear of causing a widespread panic," said one company representative. During the committee meeting, the company presented limited statistics from the 2006 report, and would not reveal its findings from 2007. Meretz Chairman Yossi Beilin sent a letter to the Environmental Ministry asking that it allow DHV to make its report public. "Acting as though this pollution does not exist will not make it go away," said Beilin. "It is dangerous to build an army complex in the Negev without knowing [what] the health consequences [would be] on the soldiers." The army is planning to build an enormous complex of military training bases, which is expected to house tens of thousands of soldiers.