Israel to Import Black Sand From Turkey to Firm Up Coastal Cliffs

Using local sand found to be ‘waste of money,’ so state buying 1 million cubic meters to spread over Ashkelon, Netanya beaches

Coastal cliffs in danger of collapse at Yanai Beach north of Netanya, December 22, 2016.
Rami Shllush

Israel will import a million cubic meters of sand in shades of black and gray and spread it on the shores of Ashkelon and Netanya in an effort to protect cliffs from collapsing, according to the government agency managing the project, in response to a report Sunday in Yedioth Ahronoth.

Sand-feeding, which has been going on in Israel for several years, involves pumping sand from boats onto beaches that have become narrower. Such beaches increase the risk of waves pounding on the cliffs, leading to a possible collapse that endangers human life and property. The agency responsible for protecting the cliffs is the Government Company for Protecting the Cliffs of the Mediterranean Shore, which was established in 2012 for this purpose. It operates under the supervision of the Environmental Protection Ministry.

According to the company’s director, Yaakov Becher, the sand will be imported through the Belgian company Jan de Nul, which won a tender to import the sand. The company has conducted sand-feeding operations in several countries and it has a license to mine sand for this purpose from the shores of Turkey.

Becher explained that the primary reason for importing sand is that sand-feeding with local sand has failed. “After tests we’ve done we concluded that we need sand with grains of a diameters at least twice the size of the diameter of local sand,” he said. “Such sand can hold up longer on the shore and not be washed back into the sea. Feeding with local sand is simply a waste of money.”

The sand that will be imported will not be as soft and will be shades of black and gray. It will be spread along the shores of Ashkelon and Netanya in sections ranging from two to four kilometers long. The work, which will take a week or two, will not be performed during the bathing season. While the plan is to eventually cover the Turkish sand with a layer of local sand to keep the beaches from looking odd, there may be periods where certain beaches may have different hues.

The decision to import the sand was made by the National Commission on Planning and Building half a year ago, and even then it was clear that Turkey was a top candidate as a source. Experts, however, warned that importing sand whose character was different than that of local sand ran the risk of importing invasive species that could multiply uncontrollably in Israel and damage the local ecosystem.

Tests done to evaluate the quality of the sand and the consequences of using it did not involve the Geological Institute, which usually advises the government company. There were also professionals in the Environment Ministry who opposed using sand from another region, but in the end the government company exerted pressure and the ministry approved the move. The ministry however, conditioned the imports on discarding the upper layer of the sand dug up in Turkey to prevent the import of invasive species.