Israel Planning New Road in Galilee, at Expense of National Park

Proposed road would reduce size of park, disrupt animal habitats, critics charge.

Zafrir Rinat
Zafrir Rinat
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Zafrir Rinat
Zafrir Rinat

The Northern District Planning and Building Committee is set to decide soon whether to permit the construction of a new entrance road to the town of Tzippori, at the expense of national park land.

The proposal has been approved by local zoning boards, but the Environmental Protection Ministry, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel are against the new road. Residents of an adjacent moshav, meanwhile, objected to a proposed alternative route that would skirt Nazareth. They said they feared a reprisal of the October 2000 riots in the area, which they said could result in access to their farming cooperative being blocked.

The district committee is scheduled to meet today to hear the Israel Nature and Parks Authority’s objections to the road. The proposed route will include a new entrance to both Tzippori National Park and the town of the same name, as well as a new interchange on Route 79 between Haifa and Nazareth.

The INPA will present an environmental impact study stating that the nearby Tzippori stream is one of the few remaining streams in which there is flowing water in the region, and ecologically it is a critical site for the reproduction and concealment of local species. The planned road would cut across this natural reserve and separate the stream from the forest in the area. The animals would be at risk of being run over and the road is also expected to prevent them from moving around their natural habitat in the area.

The INPA claims no proper examination of alternatives was conducted, as is required by a High Court of Justice ruling in a previous case. The INPA thinks an alternative route nearby in an area where an industrial zone is planned near Nazareth is more appropriate, and would prevent damage to the national park.

But half a year ago the Israel Roads Company (Netivei Yisrael), which is in charge of the road project, says that more than just transportation considerations are involved. Udi Sarig, the project manager for the road, said local residents are afraid that the events of October 200, when Arabs rioted in a number of communities along major roads and denied access to a number of Jewish communities in the north, could occur again. Another explanation was that it was inappropriate for the entrance to a national park and town to be via an industrial area which has factories and pig farms.

Sarig said various alternatives were examined for the road and these were presented to various environmental groups, and others agreed there was a problem with the access road going through an industrial area.

The INPA says it is possible to make changes to the proposed alternative route so the road would not pass through the industrial area. This would prevent damage to the stream and reduce the number of intersections on the already heavily used main road. But those involved picked the easiest solution, which harms nature, says the INPA.

The Roads Company said the proposed road has been approved by all those involved, including the INPA, and the planning process included the examination of a number of alternatives.

A view of Zippori stream and Route 79. The proposed road will go between them.Credit: Nir Engert

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