The Environmental Protection Ministry has withdrawn its support from a planned landfill site after Nature and Parks Authority night-vision cameras proved it is the habitat of a significant number of wild species.
Kibbutz Bror Hayil has proposed the hill as a site to collect the construction waste now being dumped into open areas around the kibbutz. The plan reached advanced stages of the approval process before the Nature and Parks Authority placed special cameras to determine the extent of wildlife on the site. "The cameras were equipped with motion sensors that can track wild animals and allow us a rare peek into their world," said Dr. Yariv Malichi, an ecologist working for the authority.
Cameras were placed in a number of sites along the Shikma stream by regional inspector Koby Sofer. "Some of the area is supposed to become a park, and alongside agricultural areas it has streams and hills that serve as life channels for the animals," Malichi said.
Footage received from the cameras proved rich. The authority has uploaded it on YouTube, under the title "Shikma Nights." The short video clip documents gazelles, wild boars, jackals, hyenas, porcupines and a pack of wolves, as well as swamp lynxes, foxes and badgers. The cameras also recorded in the planned landfill site hares, mongooses and night birds. "What we learned from the footage is that the animals' family life is concentrated in burrows in sites like the gravel hill that was supposed to host the landfill," said Malichi.
The new information persuaded the authority and the Environment Protection Ministry that the hill is too valuable ecologically, and they will try to convince the Regional Planning and Building Committee to oppose the landfill plan. "We believe implementing the plan could destroy the gravel hill, which is an endangered habitat," the Environment Protection Ministry said in a statement, backtracking from its earlier support for the plan. "Also, a hiking track is supposed to be laid nearby as part of the planned Shikma park, and a dumping site would be a visual hazard. Therefore, due to the sensitivity of the area, we reached the conclusion that alternatives to the site must be considered."
The project manager for Bror Hayil, David Slotky, slammed the decision as forsaking the interests of the local residents, who suffer from construction waste being dumped in open areas across the Negev. No construction waste collection site exists in the area of Sderot and Sha'ar Hanegev. Slotky noted that the plan has already been approved by relevant organizations like the Water Authority, that it would only occupy 0.015% of the Shikma park, and that the Environmental Protection Ministry has not managed to advance a single construction waste collection site.
The ministry said in response that one site, in Mitzpeh Ramon, was already confirmed and constructed, while six others are in planning stages.
Slotky also pointed out that construction waste was already being dumped spontaneously in some of the areas that would become part the Shikma park. He said he approached planning authorities in the Interior Ministry and asked them to support the landfill plan in an upcoming discussion at the National Planning and Building Committee.
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