Long-term exposure to burning wood can cause health problems or exacerbate existing health problems. As such, the MoEP, along with the Ministries of Agriculture and Health, have come up with a plan to deal with the hazards created by the charcoal-making process. The plan is based on the conclusions of an inter-ministerial committee established in 2015 to evaluate methods to deal with the situation.
According to MoEP Director General Yisrael Dancziger, Israeli farmers transfer pruned trees to the Palestinian Authority for their use in the charcoal industry. Thus he called on Israeli farmers to stop this practice, and on Israeli residents not to buy charcoal if they don’t know where it came from.
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.
Director General Dancziger: "This is an integrated action plan that includes the Ministries of Environmental Protection, Agriculture, and Health, the army, and the Civil Administration. This is not a war that will take one day or one week. This is a persistent war that will take time. We cannot stand by, as residents of Israel are attacked day after day, by soot that is endangering their health… This is a business cycle that is producing a cycle of harmful health, and we are planning to break it."
Present at the meeting were senior staff members of all the involved ministries, Knesset (Parliament) Member Yael Cohen-Paran, and other elected officials.