"Shocked" by mayor’s rebuff, environmental protection minister blames city for not planning ahead to send trash elsewhere.
By MELANIE LIDMAN
The Jerusalem Municipality refused at the beginning of the week to comply with an order from the Environmental Protection Ministry to reduce the amount of waste it sends to the Abu Dis landfill, saying trucking garbage to landfills in the South would force the city to slash the education, culture, and social welfare budgets by NIS 60 million.Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan said the Abu Dis landfill was “polluting the environment and risking the outbreak of fires or even explosions,” due to inadequate and outdated infrastructure at the dump.Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat sent a letter to Erdan on Sunday, stating the municipality’s refusal to limit the amount of trash going to Abu Dis from the current 1,100 tons per day to the 750 tons per day required by the ministry’s new standards. Abu Dis is located just outside of the municipality border between the East Talpiyot neighborhood and Ma’aleh Adumim.Erdan said he was “simply shocked” by the mayor’s letter, and that the municipality has known for a decade that Abu Dis needed to be phased out.“To my regret, you have chosen the easy way and are opposing any change, and will continue to justify pollution to the environment due to financial difficulties,” Erdan said in a letter of response to the mayor. He faulted the municipality for refusing to address the problem years ago and not beginning to implement cost-saving methods, such as trash separation at the source or composting.Erdan had asked the Finance Ministry for an additional NIS 24m. to help Jerusalem deal with the increased cost of trucking the waste to the South. But the municipality estimates sending its waste South would cost an additional NIS 83m. over the first three years.“I cannot accept the position that we must start diverting the landfill from Abu Dis before solving the issue of funding,” the mayor said in his letter to Erdan.Jerusalem pushed off for 60 days the ministry’s directive to reduce the amount of trash destined for Abu Dis, during which time it will try to resolve the difficulty with the Environmental Protection Ministry. If no agreement is reached, the city is considering legal action.According to the ministry’s decisions, the amount of waste coming in to Abu Dis is to be reduced in mid- June to 1,000 tons daily (750 from Jerusalem), in October to 650 tons (400 from Jerusalem), and in April to 300 tons (zero from Jerusalem). The capital produces approximately 1,100 tons of garbage each day.Barkat last threatened to cut the education, social welfare, and culture budgets in February, when the Knesset was wavering over the “Jerusalem Rule,” under which a yearly grant of hundreds of millions of shekels is made to the capital.Barkat restored the budgets after the Prime Minister’s Office and the Finance Ministry agreed to pay NIS 210m. for the next two years.
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