NEWS IN BRIEF
Healthy Cities Project
Within the framework of the World Health Organization’s Healthy Cities Project, an environmental conference was held in Jerusalem under the motto "Health for All in the Year 2000." The project, an initiative of the WHO Regional Office for Europe, aims to move health high on the agenda of city policy and planning and to better integrate health issues into city life and culture. Particular emphasis is placed on the promotion of healthy lifestyles and a healthy environment through public participation and multisectoral approaches toward health.
Thus far, five Israeli cities have joined the project: Jerusalem, Netanya, Ramat Hasharon, Tel Aviv and Ashkelon. More Municipalities To Invest in Sewage Projects
The municipality of Jerusalem has come under strong criticism for its lagging pace of wastewater treatment. However, the massive discharge of nearly one-half of the city’s wastewater into nearby riverbeds is finally scheduled to stop. The Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee has approved the establishment of a treatment plant for Jerusalem and its environs at a cost of $70- 90 million.
In Carmiel, the municipality has announced plans to invest about 18 million shekels, its largest financial undertaking thus far, in the erection of a regional wastewater treatment plant. The plant will be capable of treating wastes for a population of 70,000 and will reach a purification level appropriate for agricultural irrigation.
The city of Netanya has issued a general tender for a high-tech sewage treatment plant. The tender calls for bids on funding, design, construction, installation, operation and maintenance.
Finally, Ashdod will be the site of an experimental solar-powered sewage treatment plant. The plant, the first of its kind in the country, at a cost of 60,000 shekels, is expected to be operative in about 18 months. Treatment will be to a level suitable for agricultural use.
Planned Trans-Israel Road Elicits Mixed Reactions
Residents of settlements along the path of the planned trans-Israel road (Route #6) have established a non-profit organization, composed of representatives of 75 settlements, to minimize the damage which may be caused as a result of the proposed project. While recognizing the national importance of the road, the association claims that the existing plan threatens to decrease cultivated land, to cause environmental nuisances including noise, pollution and visual blight, and to damage the quality of life in their area.
Air Pollution in Haifa Increases
Air pollution was up markedly in the Haifa region in early March as easterly winds swept pollutants from refinery chimneys and the Electric Corporation’s power station towards the city. The increase occurred despite the use of very low sulfur fuel (half a percent of sulfur) in the power plant.
The Haifa refineries claim that they have invested some $50 million in the past five years to minimize environmental damages; a further investment of $20 million is expected over the next two years. On its part, the Israel Electric Corporation has announced plans to invest some $180 million in buying scrubbers to lessen pollution levels from both its Haifa and Ashdod power plants.
Plant for Treating Citrus Wastes
The Gat citrus-processing plant in Givat Haim, a kibbutz near Hadera, has invested in a $1.5 million treatment system which uses anaerobic bacteria to break the organic wastes into methane gase. To reduce its electricity usage, the factory, which makes frozen juices and other products, concurrently invested an additional $500,000 in a half a megawatt turbine, to be activated by the gas emitted during the treatment process.
Nature Protection Week
This year’s Nature Protection Week, the week of February 6th, focused on the theme "Onwards to a Clean Israel." Sponsored by Israel’s major nature protection bodies, the event witnessed a wide range of activities including free entrance to most of Israel’s parks and nature reserves, an environmental field trip for members of the education committee of the Knesset, hosted by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, a major cleanup of the Arava and Negev by soldiers and new immigrants, in cooperation with the Nature Reserves Authority, and a mass gathering of thousands of nature-lovers, plastic waste-collection bags in hand, at the Sharon Park in central Israel, to protest plans to reduce its size.
SPNI Annual Meeting Focuses on Makhteshim
The SPNI devotes its annual spring conference to a central problem in nature protection in Israel. This year’s focus was the Makhteshim in the Negev a nature phenomenon unique to Israel. The Hebrew word "makhtesh" has been incorporated into international geological terminology to describe crater-like phenomena found only in in the Negev. Makhtesh Ramon, the largest of the Negev’s three craters offers a unique landscape of volcanic hills and arid-zone plants; it is the only site in the country where exposed rock layers form a vast geological window dating back over 200 million years. The major problem facing the makhteshim today is uncontrolled mining and quarrying. Thousands of SPNI members and nature lovers made their way to the makhteshim during the recent Passover holiday to show solidarity for the SPNI campaign to have these geological phenomena declared protected nature reserves.
"Green Program" at TA University
Tel Aviv University will inaugurate a master’s program in ecology and environment within the framework of its Life Sciences Faculty. The inter-departmental program is designated for graduates in relevant realms from other faculties or universities. Students will belong to one of five departments in the faculty (zoology, botany, biochemistry, immunology and cell research, molecular microbiology and biotechnology) currently offering about 50 courses in ecology-related subjects in addition to taking a number of core courses on ecological systems and the environment.
Road Alignment Reconsidered
Environmentalists have welcomed the decision to build a bridge over the scenic Achbara river valley as part of a proposed road between Safed and Rosh Pina in the north of the country. The Housing Ministry’s public works division had originally proposed filling in the part of the river bed which the planned road is scheduled to cross with a 50-meter-high, 200 meter-wide earth rampart. A pipe at the base of the rampart would have allowed the water to continue to flow.
The SPNI and nature conservationists had opposed the plan for the rampart, saying it would cause irreparable landscape and environmental damage. They suggested an alternative in the form of a bridge over the river valley, which although slightly more costly, would leave the environment virtually untouched.
Eco-Zionism on Kibbutz Gezer
"Kibbutz Trends", the English language magazine of the kibbutz movement reports that Kibbutz Gezer initiated a successful "Eco- Zionism" project in the summer of 1992, involving 400 Jewish youths from abroad. The innovative project included a wide variety of activities from improving the appearance of the children’s environment to creating an environmental park. Participants were encouraged to identify leaves and plants, read texts, and write. During the course of the season, more than 80 poems, drawings, accounts and quotes were collected, a photograph album was assembled and the program itself was filmed for television so as to acquaint Israelis with the concept of "Eco-Zionism."
Most of the groups participated in a final tree-planting ceremony at Gezer, which symbolized their putting down roots in Israel and reinforced the positive nature of their kibbutz experience.
(For further information, please contact Mr. Jan Martin Bank, Kibbutz Gezer, D.N. Shimshon, Israel 73220).