A Tel Aviv beach, sign caution of cliff collapse
A Tel Aviv beach, sign caution of cliff collapse Photo by Alon Ron
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A new government company is to be formed to cope with the erosion and possible collapse of the sandstone cliffs that line the Mediterranean shore, ministers in the "socioeconomic cabinet" decided on Tuesday.

The new body is to be called The Government Company for Protecting the Cliffs of the Mediterranean Shore, Ltd. It will be responsible for planning, implementing and maintaining sea defenses against the cliffs' collapse, which will include building breakwaters. Launching and operating the company will require government allocations totaling some NIS 500 million over the next few years.

There are those who argue, however, that building breakwaters, which is one of the solutions the government plans to pursue, is liable to harm adjacent beaches and increase the risk of drowning.

The decision to back Environmental Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan's proposal to form the company follows a comprehensive evaluation of the condition of the coastal ridge, which was conducted by an interministerial team that found the cliff is retreating at a rate of 40 to 50 centimeters a year. This is the effect of acts such as building marinas and sea structures that block the flow of sand to the shore, which exposes the cliffs directly to the force of the waves and has led to the collapse of some parts of the cliffs.

The collapse of these cliffs pose a risk to billions of shekels' worth of property as well as to human life. The problem is most acute in urban areas such as Ashkelon, Herzliya, Netanya and the shore areas of Hadera and Beit Yanai.

About three years ago a man was killed near a cliff in the Havatzelet Hasharon area, apparently by a falling chunk of cliff. There have been a few instances of cliff sections falling in the Sharon Coast National Park north of Herzliya, and the National Parks Authority advised visitors to avoid the area.

There are those who argue, however, that building breakwaters, which is one of the solutions the government plans to pursue, is liable to harm adjacent beaches and increase the risk of drowning.

Setting up breakwaters is meant to reduce the force of the waves hitting the cliffs. But some experts oppose this solution.

"Breakwaters pose a risk to bathers because they cause whirlpools near them," say Dr. Yaakov Nir, a veteran marine geologist. "At their edges, they also increase the force of the waves that will hit any adjacent beach not protected by breakwaters, thus harming that beach."

Instead, Nir suggests protecting the base of the cliffs by using a narrower, graduated structure that won't occupy much of the beach.