Water restrictions turn Park Midron Yafo into a sea of soil

The Israel Water Authority's prohibition on planting lawns during the current water crisis is leaving the park a wasteland.

Tel Aviv's newly built Park Midron Yafo - planned as the second-largest park in the city and the flagship of the southern Tel Aviv area - has been left a vast expanse of crumbling soil that sends dust into the air with every gust of wind and turns into a sea of mud when it rains because of the Israel Water Authority's (IWA) prohibition on planting lawns during the current water crisis, reports www.mynet.co.il. The city of Tel Aviv-Jaffa is now considering what it should do in the 220-dunam beachside park, and Mayor Ron Huldai has even asked the authority for a special exemption to the prohibition, saying the city would be prepared to sacrifice lawns planned for other public areas if it could be allowed to plant grass there. According to the report, the giant park was planned four years ago to become the second-largest park in the Tel Aviv area after Ganei Yehoshua, and stretches along the beach from the Jaffa port south to Bat Yam. Construction of the park has cost NIS 57 million so far, with some 1.2 million cubic meters of soil and garbage having been excavated from the site, lighting and paths installed, young trees planted, and work begun on a car park and other facilities. But in August last year, the IWA prohibited the planting of lawns, seasonal flowers and thirsty plants in all public gardens, and recently it extended that prohibition. A municipal planning spokesman said that progress on the project had been frozen by the prohibition and the city was now weighing its options, because the steep slope of the land in the area could cause landslides if there was no vegetation to hold it in place. The spokesman said the city could, within three or four months, install equipment to desalinate sea water and to purify waste water from the nearby central sewerage pipeline, making Tel Aviv the first city in Israel to use desalinated or purified water for irrigation purposes. But he said the "bureaucracy of government offices" was demanding permits for this that would take 14 months to process. The spokesman also said the city could plant "winter grass," which would obtain all its water needs from the winter rains but would dry up and become yellow in summer, or could try a new breed of grass that required less water than normal grass; but these options were still being considered by the city's agronomists. He said that if it became necessary, the city would install plastic "hives" to hold the soil in place. A Water Authority spokesman said that Israel's water reserves were in a "severe deficit" and the country's three main water sources were "on the black line," with the current winter the driest in the past 100 years and following on from four dry winters in a row. The spokesman said that watering gardens was prohibited in any case between November and the end of April, and that in addition the authority had prohibited the planting of lawns and plants that require large quantities of water. The spokesman said the city of Tel Aviv was "correct" in not planting lawns because of the prohibition. No response to the mayor's request for an exemption was reported.