Israel Environment Bulletin Winter 1996-5756, Vol. 19, No. 1

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION PATROL

The Environmental Protection Patrol is the major enforcement body of the Ministry of the Environment. Its inspectors, positioned in each of the country’s administrative districts, combine field surveillance with investigative authority. Working hand in hand with the professionals of the Environment Ministry’s district offices, they serve as professional advisors, on the one hand, police officers, on the other.

The inspector is a rare combination of environmentalist, scout and investigator. He is a lone wolf, roaming the country in his jeep, equipped with beeper and cellular telephone, camera and binoculars. He serves as the eyes of the Ministry of the Environment in the field, on the lookout for environmental offenses, on call around the clock. His day may extend from dawn to midnight, seven days a week. His very presence is a deterrent, an incentive to compliance.

A lion’s share of the work of the Environmental Patrol lies in the area of cleanliness, littering prevention, and safe management of landfills. The inspectors visit thousands of landfills annually, submit guidelines and instructions to landfill owners or local authorities, expedite the shut-down of illegal dumps, and report on violations of the Cleanliness Law whether by the ‘midnight dumper,’ the solitary citizen who throws an empty can out of his car window or the trucker whose uncovered trucks scatter refuse during the transport of solid waste.

Other important areas of Patrol responsibility include enforcement of water and sewage laws; removal of illegal billboards from the country’s interurban highways, following due notice; enforcement of regulations on hazardous substances and business licensing both in the industrial and the agricultural sectors; inspections of sanitary conditions in gasoline stations; and supervision of open spaces and national parks to ensure that no attempts are made to illegally encroach on these protected areas.

To promote environmental awareness along with compliance, the Environmental Patrol cooperates with other field bodies and ministerial units in organizing environmental information and enforcement campaigns: a semiannual campaign in the Lake Kinneret area; cleanups along the coastal strip and in industrial zones and open spaces; information stations at strategic spots throughout the country on weekends and holidays; and lectures in army bases and Field Study Centers of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.

A central responsibility of the Environmental Patrol is direct enforcement. Whether acting on reports from anonymous phone callers or from the Minister of the Environment himself, the inspectors are always in the field, discovering nuisances, identifying the source, and planning the appropriate course of action. When a criminal investigation is opened, the inspectors utilize the authority granted to them by the Minister of the Police to undertake investigation, entrance and seizure procedures.

How do twelve patrol inspectors and a director open nearly 170 investigation files each year, inspect 3500 landfills and solid waste transfer stations, check over 1000 gasoline stations, deal with nearly 800 cases of illegal billboards on interurban highways, submit 1250 cleanliness reports, and conduct over 300 visits to national parks? Commitment, loyalty, love of the land, and respect for the environment the basic attributes of Israel’s national environmental inspectors provide the simple answer.