An important environmental organization thathas been active in the Haifa area and the Western Galilee announced on Sunday that it is closing down operations because of funding problems due primarily to a loss of support from international foundations.
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In a farewell letter posted on its website, the Public Health Coalition announced that all its employees have been dismissed and that efforts are being made to find them other jobs in the environmental field.
The organization’s closure is a severe blow to environmental activities in northern Israel, where it has played a major role in gathering and disseminating environmental data and was actively involved in major struggles related to pollution and public health. There will now be less supervision by civic organizations of large industrial concerns, including petrochemical industrial plants like Oil Refineries Ltd. in Haifa.
Since its founding, the Public Health Coalition has participated in several notable campaigns. One of them was the effort to increase supervision of, and reduce polluting emissions from, the Chod metal recycling plant in the Acre area. Another campaign in which the organization played a pivotal role led to the closure of an electrochemical industrial plant that used toxic substances some of which were emitted into the environment.
Over the past two years, the Public Health Coalition monitored the expansion plans of Oil Refineries Ltd. and was involved in applying continual pressure to the Environmental Protection Ministry to promote the improvement of the quality of air in the Haifa area. The organization was one of the few in Israel to publish, at its own expense, research studies and analyses on the connection between health problems and environmental pollution. The conclusions of these research studies pointed not only to a worsening of conditions but also to certain trends indicating an improvement in the quality of air in the Haifa area.
With Public Health Coalition’s closure, an organizational vacuum has been created in the Haifa area when it comes to activities aimed at preventing environmental pollution. But there remain a number of local environment-oriented residents’ organizations as well as bodies, such as the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and the environmental NGO Zalul, that are concerned with issues like planning, construction and the pollution of streams and the Mediterranean Sea. One possibility that has been recently weighed by a number of environmental activists in the Haifa area is creating a broad-based framework for the activities of environmental organizations within which activists from the now-defunct organization can continue their work.