Wood to be used to make charcoal in the West Bank Photo: MoEP
Charcoal is made by the slow, controlled burning of a massive pile of wood, surrounded by wet straw and soil. The process, which can take up to 30 days, causes strong smoke emissions and odors, and leaves those nearby enveloped in clouds of thick smoke. Long-term exposure to burning wood can cause health problems or exacerbate existing health problems. The MoEP considers the production method of producing charcoal a serious environmental nuisance and health hazard.
The MoEP and Agriculture Ministry’s plan is based on the conclusions of an inter-ministerial committee that was established in 2015 to evaluate methods to deal with the hazards created via the charcoal-making process. A meeting is being organized in Mitzpeh Ilan, one of the most heavily affected communities, on May 17, 2016, at 19:00, to discuss the issue and update residents about the plan. Directors general of both ministries will be at the meeting, as will the head of the Menashe Regional Council, and representatives from the MoEP and Ministry of Health, as well as from the civil administration.
The action plan to deal with the environmental problem caused by charcoal-making includes the following stages:
- Regulating the transport of tree stumps (which are burned to make charcoal). Regulation will ensure the stumps are only transported with permission granted by authorities, and only to authorized sites.
- Certification of inspectors designated to enforce the implementation of the aforementioned regulation.
- Immediate financial support for transporting the tree stumps to designated sites, and for the establishment of such sites for the interim storage of the stumps, until a long-term solution is found.
- Increase the number of officers designated to enforce of the law prohibiting the transfer of tree stumps – raw charcoal-making material – to the West Bank.
- Lend financial support to factories that use wood to produce biomass – a fuel developed from organic materials used to create electricity or other forms of power, or for composting, or for other similar uses. The plan would provide NIS 27 million for the establishment of such facilities between 2017-2020.
- Assess the use of tree stumps as a substitute for coal in Israel Electric Corp. power plants.
- Raise awareness among farmers in order to get their help in preventing the transfer of tree stumps to the West Bank for charcoal making.
- Expand monitoring: The MoEP has already placed an air quality monitoring station in the city of Harish in order to measure air quality in the region.
MoEP Director General Yisrael Dancziger: "Charcoal making constitutes a serious environmental and health hazard, which significantly harms the quality of life of residents of the Sharon region. Continued operation of these kilns is environmental terrorism that causes extreme difficulties for residents of Israel."