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SPNI Draws Line in Bid to Save Arava Sand Dune

A tender issued by the Israel Lands Administration to mine the sand was recently won by a contractor.

The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel objects to a plan to mine part of the Samar sand dune for construction, while turning the rest of the area into a nature reserve.

Environmental organizations and local residents have been waging a campaign against mining the Arava's last remaining sand dune, located near Kibbutz Samar. A tender issued by the Israel Lands Administration to mine the sand was recently won by a contractor.

Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan has been working on a plan with Housing Minister Ariel Atias, who is in charge of the ILA, to save the dune, which had previously been earmarked for mining.

The two are considering the option of allowing a million cubic meters of sand from the dune to be mined, while declaring the rest of it a nature reserve, thus ensuring the dune's future. But no final agreement has been reached.

SPNI rejected the proposed plan, saying there is no justification for mining sand in the area. In recent months the SPNI has suggested several alternatives for building materials in the area, such as using the remains of mined materials in the Timna region and recycling construction waste in Eilat. The ILA has not accepted any of the alternatives.

"Ecologically, mining the dune will have serious repercussions," a spokesperson for the SPNI said Monday. "It will deal a fatal blow to the wildlife in the dune and we believe there is no place for a compromise that would destroy natural treasures permanently and unnecessarily. We will continue the campaign together with the public to preserve the dune."

Tal Goldman, one of the leaders of the campaign to save the dune, said the area's residents have not seen any compromise agreement, so could not comment on it. "We're glad SPNI, Israel's largest environmental organization, will lead the campaign from now on," Goldman said.