Kishon River - Hagai Frid - 16012012
The polluted Kishon River in Haifa. Photo by Hagai Frid
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The Kishon River Authority and Environmental Protection Ministry are moving ahead with a major initiative to clean up the Haifa area waterway despite the lack of guaranteed funding sources. While funding arrangements for the NIS 220 million project have yet to be finalized and risk-assessment studies for the project have yet to be completed, the authority and ministry are planning within the coming weeks to issue an international tender for the right to undertake the major clean-up project.

This first-of-its-kind project in Israel will begin with work to dry up a stretch of the river close to the Haifa area refineries. This tributary will be relocated to an area southwest of the current stretch. Some 4,000 cubic meters of polluted riverbed will be brought to the dried-up area. The riverbed will be cleaned and should be available for use as land in an area slated for a public park.

The riverbed will be removed along a seven-kilometer stretch of the waterway. This is a stretch into which large quantities of industrial sewage have been spilled over the years. Some pollutants seeped deeply into the riverbed and this eliminates any possibility of the Kishon being entirely cleaned, since even if no more sewage water spills into the river, its land base will continue to contain pollutants and pose risks to water quality.

Even after the tender is advertised, the riverbed clean-up project will face a number of obstacles. The government has promised to partially fund the project, yet continues to negotiate with Haifa Chemicals Ltd. regarding the company's share of the funding. Other factories in the area have announced that they will contribute NIS 90 million to the project; the rest of the funding is to come from local councils in the Kishon area.

Still to be done are risk evaluations to assess possible dangers of riverbed cleaning techniques envisioned in this project. Also to be assessed is whether the clean-up will render the Kishon accessible to certain kinds of activities (for instance, boating ).

"We hope that after the tender procedure is completed, in another few months, we will be able to carry out the riverbed purification project within a year," said Haim Hemi, the director of the Kishon River Authority.