Israel Looks to Relax Anti-noise Laws for Major Road, Rail Projects

Environmental group warns that ‘draconian’ legislation would create severe noise pollution for many Israelis.

A light rail site in Tel Aviv, February 2016. Work is proceeding ahead of schedule.
Ofer Vaknin

The government is promoting legislation that would exempt national infrastructure projects from local anti-noise laws. A leading environmental group warned that the amendment will expose the public to severe noise pollution.

The Finance Ministry is looking to remove obstacles to national infrastructure projects with the legal amendment, which is being brought to the Knesset via supplementary legislation accompanying the 2017–2018 budget. It proposes that approval for such projects be made easier and that a committee be established to coordinate between various bodies involved in each project.

The amendment also proposes changing the current noise prevention law. Some cities and towns have ordinances stating the hours during which work may be done outside normal working hours. These regulations are not uniform, though, and in some cities there are no ordinances at all on the matter.

The government claims that as things currently stand — especially when projects involve several local governments — it is difficult to carry out projects efficiently. As a result, the amendment proposes that its special instructions be allowed to prevail over city ordinances regarding noise during national infrastructure projects, especially road and railroad construction.

Attorney Amit Bracha, executive director of the Israel Union for Environmental Defense, said passage of the bill could mean that “any one of us could find ourselves living next to what is defined as national infrastructure,” and suffer without letup from loud drilling and construction noise.

“At a time when it is easy for the government to define any construction project as national infrastructure, this draconian law would cancel out all the protection the public now has against noise nuisances, day and night, and will make our lives hell,” Bracha said, adding that the bill should not be concealed inside a budget law.

The Finance Ministry responded that the government had launched major infrastructure projects in the framework of its economic plan for 2017-2018, “which will lead to improved environmental quality, reduced congestion on the roads and reduced pollution. As part of the steps for rapid advancement of these projects, an amendment was proposed by which uniform rules will be set that will, on the one hand, allow as continuous as possible work on the project and shortening timetables and, on the other, maintain a reasonable level of noise as a result of the work.”

The ministry also noted that because some towns had no antinoise ordinances, the amendment would help regulate the matter.