barkat - Daniel Bar-On - February 7 2011
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat Photo by Daniel Bar-On
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Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat yesterday harshly slammed the Ministry of Environmental Protection for imposing limits on the amount of trash the municipality can dump at a site in Abu Dis, close to the city. Barkat charges that the ministry is requiring the municipality to transport trash to the Negev, at the city taxpayers' expense.

Money allocated to transport city garbage to the Negev could be used to fund educational and welfare programs in Jerusalem, the mayor argues.

Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan angrily responded to Barkat's objections, saying that the Jerusalem mayor is citing budget pressures as an excuse to condone the spread of pollution and the creation of safety hazards.

The Environmental Protection Ministry recently informed the Jerusalem Municipality that it must reduce by 40 percent the amount of trash it dumps at the Abu Dis site. The Abu Dis site is old and using it causes damage to the outlying area, the ministry claims.

The ministry is also urging the Jerusalem Municipality to increase its trash recycling activity, so as to reduce its dependence on the use of garbage dumps.

Yesterday, civil administration inspectors at Abu Dis, which is located beyond the 1967 Green Line, took action to prevent trucks from dumping trash beyond the quota allowed by the ministry - 750 tons a day. In the months ahead, the ministry plans to tighten these restrictions on trash dumping at the Abu Dis site; and within a year, the site will be closed completely to trash generated from within the Green Line.

In a letter to the ministry, Barkat protested that transporting city trash to the Negev would cost the municipality an additional NIS 83 million a year. He claimed that the government was compensating Jerusalem for just a quarter of this cost.

"The meaning of this change is that the municipality will have to cut allocations for education, social welfare and culture, and transfer them to fund the transport of trash," the mayor wrote. "The municipality believes that this is unacceptable; we have agreed to the principle of bringing trash to another site, but it is absolutely wrong for the ministry to abandon Jerusalem, and bring about a situation in which the steep costs are imposed on residents of the poorest city in the country."

Erdan stated yesterday that the government had been asking the Jerusalem Municipality for years to gradually shut down use of the Abu Dis dump site. "Unfortunately, the municipality decided to stick its head in the sand, and not take steps to phase out use of the site. I will not authorize the continued use of the Abu Dis site, which causes environmental damage and is a safety risk."

Erdan also wrote to Barkat yesterday: "I am simply astonished by your response. It is regrettable that you have chosen to take the easy way out, and oppose any change, and continue to cause pollution, all on the pretext of financial pressure," he charged. "Would you accept it were the civil administration to claim that it was forced to pollute Jerusalem because it lacks the funds to carry out a required change of policy."