Carmel Forest fire
The charred remains of part of the Carmel Forest in wake of massive blaze. Photo by Alon Ron
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The cabinet is set to confirm the flora and fauna rehabilitation plan for Mount Carmel today, seven months after a deadly forest fire killed 44 rescue service personnel and caused extensive damage to the environment.

The state has not yet located funding for the NIS 55 million program, which is aimed not only at restoring the scorched Carmel environment, but also at reducing the risks of future fires.

The four-year plan was drafted by an interministerial steering committee under the supervision of the Environmental Protection Ministry. The expert team, led by Professor Avi Prevolotzki, submitted the plan to the committee.

The plan includes removal of burnt trees, rebuilding camp sites and infrastructure, and rebuilding the mountain's agricultural terracing and archaeological sites.

One of the plan's main objectives - and about one third of its total cost - is to keep future fires from spreading. Efforts would include cutting back foliage and undergrowth so the forest is less dense. The plan also would create buffer zones near roads and villages to protect local residents. Similar policies are already in place in many Mediterranean countries.

Vegetation would be cleared away through cutting and trimming, as well as through the use of cattle herds.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz opposes the plan, for which he says there is no funding in the 2011-12 budget.

Steinitz said there was an understanding that the plan would be financed through the open grounds fund, which is to be established under the Lands Authority and is intended to replace the Israel Lands Administration. However, a disagreement between Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Atias and Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan is delaying the establishment of funds.

Steinitz recommended that the Housing and Construction Minister establish the fund within 30 days.

The fund is set to have an annual budget of NIS 50 million, and is expected to cover the costs of the Carmel rehabilitation plan.