For some years, a committee in the Prime Minister's Office has had the task of removing obstructions that impede the implementation of building and development plans. Not long ago, the committee published a report about its activities between 2001 and 2003 that shows that government ministries, and the plans' sponsors, frequently engage in mutual obstruction.
The first of six obstacles cited by the committee is that sponsors of plans must submit various examinations and checks, including an examination of alternatives, but they do not ensure the carrying out or monitoring of such checks as required. Another obstacle is created by the lack of coordination among government bodies, especially between those responsible for residential construction and those responsible for transportation. A further obstacle is the dispute between local governments over their boundaries of jurisdiction.
Problems in implementing plans once they have been approved is another a significant obstacle. Regarding this subject, the report states: "When the committee started its work, the impression was that most of the problems exist in the stages in which the plans are approved. After a while, and after the committee devoted considerable effort to solving disputes and advancing a number of plans to the final approval stage, it turned out that even once a plan is approved, there are many difficulties before it is implemented." The main difficulty cited by the committee lies in the return of land to the state by those who are holding it (for example, farmer lessees) or removing trespassers from state land.
One of the six obstacles is opposition to development initiatives that potentially can be harmful to the environment. One does not have to be a member of the Greens movement to be aware that, contrary to the other obstacles, the reason for this one is substantive opposition intended to protect vital interests - such as preserving open areas and preventing environmental hazards.
Even according to the committee for removing the obstacles, which cannot be suspected of being sympathetic to groups that delay plans, the Greens (governmental bodies such as the Environment Ministry and public organizations) conducted their struggle through the planning institutions. Many of these battles were fought against the harm that would be caused to open spaces by residential construction plans that sought to use areas designated as open in master plans. The implication is that the Greens acted according to the planning establishment's position.
The cases of construction plans at Atlit, on the Mediterranean coast, and Zichron Yaakov, which involve no fewer than 6,000 homes, illustrate the importance of the opposition mounted by the Greens. The plans were put on hold for years because sewage solutions could not be found, and severe environmental hazards were created. The Greens' adamancy and the intervention of the committee to remove obstacles helped bring about a situation whereby facilities to treat sewage were installed, after which it was possible to proceed with the plans.
A reading of the committee's report and a perusal of the plans involved create the impression that the Greens should mount greater resistance to some of the plans in order to bring about their annulment, or at least to have changes in them made. It would be better if they did so via a public struggle and not just by meetings with planners and government officials.
One sphere in which activity along these lines is required relates to the areas in the country's center that have been evacuated by Israel Military Industries or the areas the company intends to evacuate near Ramat Hasharon. Serious ground contamination and groundwater pollution were caused by IMI in these locations, and without rehabilitation and purification operations, it is very possible that the groundwater pollution will continue, leaving area residents vulnerable to health risks.
A case that deserves greater publicity is that of Road 358, which is planned to pass along the 1967 Green Line close to the Lachish region. Since there is no heavy traffic in this area, there was no real need for a road. However, because the government wants to beef up the area with new communities - which will also have an adverse effect on open areas - it wants to build a road that will impact an area of considerable landscape and ecological importance. In this instance, the Greens should have taken a determined position to block the plan, but their voice was lost amid discussions by the planning institutions, and the landscape was abandoned to its bitter fate.
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