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Israel ranks 61st out of 132 countries in various aspect of environmental performance, and 78th in decade-long environmental trends, according to a recently published study.

The Yale University Environmental Performance Index and its new Trend Environmental Performance Index ranks countries on 22 aspects of environmental performance in a way that helps compare countries' achievements in applying environmental policy goals.

Israel 61st place ranking in the overall index puts it on the same level as Cyprus, Spain, Malta and the United States. It received high points in indices having to do with the improvement of public health after exposure to environmental pollution, as well as for the quality of its water supply.

Among the indicators in the index, established in 2002, are the status of water sources, greenhouse-gas emissions, air pollution and nature conservation.

The report is considered the world's most comprehensive index of its type, although even its authors concede that a lack of information impedes precise comparisons.

Israel declined to 78th place over the past decade in the Pilot Trend Environmental Performance Index, because of the drying up of water sources and concomitant harm to nature, damage to fish and greenhouse-gas emissions. Israeli scientists have also warned in the past of a decline in these areas.

Israel is 88th on the Pilot Trend list in the category dealing with achievements of the past decade for its protection of nature and biodiversity. This trend conforms to data collected by Israeli environmental groups and scientists indicating a continual shrinking of open spaces and increasing danger of extinction of animal and plant species. The countries ranking the lowest are South Africa, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Iraq. The reports note that severe water problems and lack of a stable government in these countries make environmental challenges difficult to overcome. The countries at the top in overall environmental performance are Switzerland, Latvia, Norway, Luxembourg and Costa Rica.

Switzerland was first on the main list for its monitoring of pollution and management of natural resources, while Latvia was first over the past decade trends mainly due to major improvements in air quality.

Russia's position over the past decade, in contrast, has declined, in the quality of public health due to an increase in environmental pollution as well as the disappearence of forests and fish.

The Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies and the Environmental Protection Ministry recently published an evaluation of the country's standing on environmental issues in comparison to other countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Among the findings was that the quantity of garbage per capita in Israel, as well as greenhouse-gas emissions, is greater than in other OECD countries.

However, the Israeli study also found that Israel was keeping up with other OECD countries when it came to gradual reduction in air pollution.