An Arab NGO warned this week that any decision to set up a natural gas facility near the Galilee towns Tamra and Kabul would endanger the local people.
Such a plan has been discussed by the national planning and building authorities, notes the Arab Center for Alternative Planning, which monitors planning, housing and development and how it affects the Arab community.
After the Second Lebanon War, the Environmental Protection Ministry set up a committee to examine dangerous sites near populated areas. One of the panel's recommendations was to move Kiryat Ata's natural gas facility elsewhere.
The committee discussed moving the gas reservoir to the so-called valleys area near Afula, or to the Tamra and Kabul area in the Western Galilee on the site of Damoun village, whose Arab inhabitants left in 1948.
The Afula municipality said it would fight against the construction of a gas facility nearby. Environmental groups in the valleys area also objected to the plan. But the local authorities of Tamra and Kabul were not told of the alternative to set up the reservoir nearby because the designated area is outside their jurisdiction.
Tamra Mayor Adel Abu al-Hijiya told Haaretz he was not familiar with the plan's details and intended to fight against it with the Arab Center for Alternative Planning.
"It's a huge reservoir to set up a few hundred meters as the crow flies from the town's houses," said Hijiya. "If Kiryat Ata, Haifa and Afula object strongly, we can't agree to it. If it endangers them it endangers us, and it's unfortunate the national planning and building council didn't take that into account."
The director of the Arab Center for Alternative Planning, Raja Khoury, said that according to minutes of meetings he had obtained, the authorities have decided to draw up a detailed plan to move the facility to the Tamra and Kabul area.
"If this plan is carried out, it will expose the people in Tamra and Kabul to significant risk, because any gas leak would require evacuating the residents living only two and a half kilometers from the facility," said Khoury. "We're asking the [planning and building authorities] to find another place for the facility and to move it further away from populated areas, to avoid a disaster in the future."
In a position paper, the NGO said the planned site consists mainly of soft earth, and any earthquake or natural disaster could cause the facility to collapse. Also, the gas reservoir could be a strategic target in a war, putting thousands of people at risk.
Apart from the risk to the population and the environmental hazards, the gas pipes that would be laid down from the coast to the facility would require the confiscation of hundreds of dunams of farmland belonging to the towns' residents.
The NGO and the local authorities are preparing detailed objections before the plan is discussed again.
The Interior Ministry said the option of building the facility near Tamra and Kabul is still being examined. As soon as decisions are made the public will be notified and the residents and local authorities will be able to submit their objections, the ministry said.
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