The Cabinet approved a NIS 220 million plan – part of which will be funded by the Government – to clean up the Kishon River near Haifa. The river has been linked with numerous cases of cancer among former soldiers in the Navy who conducted training dives in its polluted waters.
The goal of the planned cleanup is “to improve the quality of life in the Haifa Bay area and turn it into the green lung of Israel's northern metropolitan area,” the government said.
The park will also become a recreation center. According to the plan, over the next three years, the polluted bed of the river will be dredged and the sludge pools cleared, and work will proceed on further developing the recently-established Kishon Park.
The area in which the Kishon River flows into Haifa Bay is considered one of the most polluted places in the country. The Kishon River has recently undergone an extensive rehabilitation process, in keeping with a long-range master-plan that was adopted in 2001.
There has been a considerable improvement in water quality in the Kishon, which has led to the return of flora and fauna to the river, according to the government statement. However, past pollution and sludge pools along its banks are still impeding both the ecological rehabilitation process and public recreational activities.
In February, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu dedicated the Kishon Park and made the rehabilitation of the river a national project. He noted that a decision to clean up the river had been delayed over the years but added that, "This Government has made this important decision in order to maintain quality of life."
Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan said that, "After decades of pollution and neglect, the Kishon River will be cleaned up and go back to being a resource that the public can enjoy."
The Bible (Judges, 4) mentions the Kishon River as the place where Israelite general Barak Ben Avinoam, on the advice of Devorah the Prophetess, defeated the army of Sisra the Canaanite. It is also the place where Elijah (Eliyahu) the Prophet slaughtered the priests of Baal (Kings I, 18).
A private firm has been searching for diamonds on the Kishon riverbed, based on advice from the late Lubavicher Rebbe.