Environmental groups fear that the destruction caused by the Carmel fire will be used as an excuse to pave a road that would harm Mount Carmel National Park.
The Interior Ministry says it is considering a plan to pave a road to connect the Druze town Daliat al-Carmel with the moshav Nir Etzion. The road would cut across the park.
A committee headed by the official responsible for Haifa at the Interior Ministry is studying the lessons of the Carmel fire and evaluating the area's planning needs.
The Daliat al-Carmel local council asked the committee to consider transforming an existing dirt road into a paved road so the community can be linked to the Hof Hacarmel area.
Part of the road is in Daliat al-Carmel's jurisdiction and has already been paved by local people, but the portion that runs through the national park is a dirt road.
"During the recent blaze we found ourselves blocked in because access to the community was cut off from both sides; at one point we had a shortage of fuel," said Carmel Nasser al-Din, head of the Daliat al-Carmel local council.
"That's why we're asking that they build a road that will give access to residents during emergencies and for use by firefighters and emergency teams. It would essentially serve as an escape route, and we don't intend to transform it into a regular road. In any case, most residents drive toward Yokne'am and Haifa. It's already paved in one part, so all that needs to be done is to complete it."
The Society for the Protection of Nature and the Israel Parks Authority adamantly oppose the new plan.
"There is no justification to pave a new asphalt road because it can be used by emergency rescue vehicles as it is currently," the Parks Authority said.
The Society for the Protection of Nature argues that such a road would augur badly for such a relatively small space.
"In the open fields on the Carmel there are hundreds of kilometers of dirt roads, unreasonably crowded in such a relatively small space that is particularly sensitive," the society said. "We will take action to prevent any attempt to add another road in the park because it constitutes an unreasonable threat to ecology in the park. What should be done is to properly maintain essential roads that already exist."
For its part, the Interior Ministry said that "a representative of the Daliat al-Carmel Council asked that the road in question be transformed into an access road to the community from the west. But there is opposition from the Greens. The official in charge of the Haifa District ordered an evaluation on making the road ready for use by emergency vehicles only, in coordination with the fire service, Magen David Adom and Home Front Command."
The environmental groups say it would be impossible to limit such a road to emergencies; it would become a regular road that damages the park.
The environmentalists are also concerned that other initiatives are being linked to the Carmel fire. These include the broadening of built-up areas in the communities of Daliat al-Carmel and Isfiya, and the paving of another road that will be used to bypass the two communities and ease traffic.
According to the head of the Daliat al-Carmel local council, the community is drawing up a plan that would include development needs but also the need to preserve the park.
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