The Environmental Protection Ministry admits it hasn't been able to stop the illegal burning of trash in the Galilee, something that seriously damages the environment.

According to sources at the ministry, the problem cannot be tackled unless there is a drastic improvement in the finances of the Arab municipal authorities. Only then would they be able to collect garbage effectively.

Last week a special Knesset committee on environment and health, headed by MK Dov Khenin (Hadash ), held a session on trash's effect on the Galilee's Shaghur Valley. Local people and officials from the ministry took part in the meeting.

A member of an environmental organization working against the garbage problem is Ze'ev Shilor of Mitzpeh Tzurit. He says that a year ago he moved to the community because he was told it was the closest he could get to Eden, because of the vistas and quality of life.

But he says he and his neighbors are constantly plagued by the stench and air pollution caused by the illegal burning of trash. He says he has begun taking down data on the vehicles dumping garbage in the area.

Because of the Arab communities' inability to deal with the problem, businesses throw trash in illegal dumps, which are then set on fire. Thieves, looking for metal, then come to the dumpsters and take whatever metal they can find.

"Our available manpower is limited, but we still have a full-time employee who is active in enforcing the ban on dumping trash, and we have confiscated trucks that dumped trash illegally. But this has made no substantive change," said the ministry's Amir Levin at the committee meeting.

Baruch Compano, who is in charge of environmental affairs in the Misgav Regional Council, says the ministry's so-called green police have no real presence in the area.

"We spoke with business owners in the Arab communities and they realize the danger that burning garbage entails," Compano said. "But they need help in removing the trash to an organized site."