Government Allowing Construction That Damages Open Spaces, SPNI Contends

Government ministries and enforcement authorities are allowing construction plans to go forward even though they are damaging open spaces around the country, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel stated.

In its annual Threats to Open Spaces report, the SPNI outlined 81 threats of various types throughout the country, mainly new construction or infrastructure, and the approval of illegal construction.

The SPNI says the government is acting in opposition to the official policy of the Interior Ministry Planning Administration, which calls for concentrating construction in already built-up areas in order to protect open spaces.

The SPNI report focuses on the fact that government ministries are working to grant retroactive approval to many farms established in the Negev, the Judean Mountains and the Galilee. The organization also contends that a committee of inquiry recommended legalizing a large amount of illegal construction in Negev Bedouin communities.

The report also warns against the attempt to retroactively legalize construction in the villages of Daliat al-Carmel and Isfiya, which the group says will seriously harm the adjacent Carmel Park. It also points out that the planning authorities are seeking ways to retroactively legalize small businesses and homes in many moshavim in the center of the country.

"The picture is one of policy that gives priority to narrow interests over wider public interests," Itamar Ben-David, an SPNI planning expert, said.

The SPNI says one plan envisions pushing back the Mediterranean to accommodate extensive construction, which will seriously damage the special Acre skyline. Construction plans in the coastal community of Atlit also will damage nature and the landscape.

A planned reform for poultry runs also threatens open spaces. The reform seeks to move the runs out of the moshavim and concentrate them in open areas. The SPNI concedes that the reform is important in order to improve the residents' environment; however, it contends that the poultry runs should not be moved to open spaces, but rather to the edges of the moshavim or near areas that already contain offices, warehouses, pubs, event halls or other structures.

In the Sharon area, there are at least six planned roads that will eat into the region's last remaining open spaces, the SPNI report states, including in the Nahal Poleg and Sharon Park areas. The SPNI says these roads should be reconsidered.

"We don't argue with the forecast that in the coming decades, built-up areas will need to be doubled," Nir Papai, head of environmental protection at the SPNI, said yesterday. "We do say that the location of this construction should be studied, and it should be done in a way that does not do this much harm to the last open spaces we have."