The Building Freeze is Bad for the Environment

As world leaders meet to discuss global ecology issues, a local group says the building freeze will hold up vital environmental projects.

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Nissan Ratzlav-Katz, | updated: 21:41

Municipal Environmental Assoc. of Samaria
Municipal Environmental Assoc. of Samaria
Israel News photo: (file)

As world leaders meet in Copenhagen to discuss global ecological concerns, a local "green" organization says that the building freeze in Judea and Samaria is devastating for the environment.

Nitzan Levi, chairman of the Municipal Environmental Association of Judea, and Itche Meir, chairman of the Municipal Environmental Association of Samaria, warned Environmental Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan this week of the ecological damage caused by the freeze in construction projects in Judea and Samaria. In their letter to the minister they called the negative impact on the environment "severe".

"Many municipalities of Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria are in the midst of environmental infrastructure planning or upgrades, such as waste treatment facilities; sewage stations; bio-gas treatment systems; waystations for construction refuse, foliage and the like, etc.," Levi and Meir wrote. "No one disputes the importance and necessity of such infrastructure in preventing hazards. Some of these infrastructures are the result of administration, including enforcement, by the Jerusalem and central districts of the Environmental Protection Office. Delay in the building of such infrastructures for as long as a year may harm the environment."

As an example of the potential damage, the letter describes the necessary upgrade of a sewage system in Efrat that was to get underway this year. Problems with the current system have led to contamination of a nearby brook. A second example given is the approved connection of the city of Ariel to the main waste treatment pipeline of central Israel. Currently, the Efrat and Ariel municipalities have been ordered by the central government to freeze all construction
The ecological impact of continued delays may impact the hillside aquifer.

"The freeze order is delaying and preventing local municipalities from promoting critical environmental issues," Levi and Meir wrote. They warn that the ecological impact of continued delays may impact the hillside aquifer, which provides a significant source of drinking water.

The two leaders also expressed frustration at the fact that the funds were found overnight for 60 new building inspectors to enforce the construction freeze, yet the Environmental Affairs Ministry failed to respond to a request for a single refuse disposal inspector for both Judea and Samaria more than two years ago. They called for the newly hired inspectors to enforce the construction freeze to prevent the illegal dumping in Judea and Samaria by contractors from within the pre-1967 borders of Israel.

The letter from the two regional branches of the Municipal Environmental Association closes with a modest request to exempt environmental protection and infrastructure projects from the government's current building freeze order in Judea and Samaria.