The cabinet has not found funding to implement a program to reduce air pollution, putting it dangerously close to violating the Clean Air Law that went into effect about a year ago.

Without the funding, the cabinet will not discuss the measures at its weekly meeting today, even though the Clean Air Law stated that the funding had to be ready within a year - a few weeks from now.

The Environmental Protection Ministry presented its program a few weeks ago to the relevant ministries. But last week the Finance Ministry said it opposes approving the program at this time and has not found money for it.

The cost of the program is estimated at NIS 690 million for the coming decade. Funding is needed to scrap cars that fail to meet antipollution standards (their owners would receive cash payments ), and for workplaces to encourage employees to take public transportation to work. It also includes hiring more experts for the Environmental Protection Ministry and expanding the ministry's air-pollution monitoring system.

The ministry says the program's economic benefit, estimated at NIS 1 billion a year, far outweighs its cost. This benefit stems in part from savings in hospital stays by people with pollution-related health problems.

The program would also bring down the number of deaths linked to air pollution. For the first time in Israel, the Environmental Protection Ministry has calculated the monetary value of a human life according to a method used by members of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development.

The ministry has calculated that a human life in Israel is worth between NIS 11 million and NIS 12 million, and the value of a year of human life is NIS 280,000.

The Environmental Protection Ministry intends to work this week to get the program approved. Environmental organizations are also pressuring the government to pass the program.

The Union for Environmental Defense and the Coalition for Public Health urged Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan over the weekend to expand the program to include additional measures to encourage the use of public transportation.

The groups also want to extend the demand to control pollution to include mid-sized factories, not only large ones. They also want to act on the Clean Air Law by declaring the areas of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa "pollution-afflicted zones," which would legally require the enactment of plans to reduce pollution.

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