Israeli national planning authorities are softening an article of law designed to prevent construction of waterbeds, so the city of Jerusalem can allow a large dirt landfill to be built by the neighborhoods of French Hill, Isawiyah and the Shoafat refugee camp, sources in the planning authority told Haaretz.
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The National Planning and Building Council is expected to approve the amendment Wednesday.
Jewish and Palestinian residents have been fighting the city’s plan for the landfill by their homes for a long time. The site would be located along the upper stretch of the Og Stream, not far from the French Hill intersection. It is designated to accept surplus dirt from construction in the Jerusalem area for 20 years, ultimately blocking the streambed entirely.
The residents argue that the landfill will create nuisances of noise and dust, and increase morbidity. The city counters that the effects on the environment would be marginal and that Jerusalem needs a landfill in order to continue developing.
One of the opponents’ strongest claims is that it contravenes National Master Plan 35, approved in 2005. Section 9 of the plan states that areas defined as streams must be preserved and rehabilitated.
However, shortly before hearing the residents’ objection, the National Planning and Building Council decided to change the article and ease the restrictions on development plans within streambed areas throughout Israel. The opponents have no doubt that the purpose of the amendment is to help the city of Jerusalem pursue its landfill plan.
A source on the national council confirmed to Haaretz that even if it hadn’t been said explicitly, it was clear to the participants in the discussion that the landfill in Jerusalem did lie behind the decision to amend the article.
About two weeks ago, the Planning Principles committee approved the article change, which deleted most of the conditions for approval to build within a waterbed, leaving only the condition stating that “as long as it will not harm the performance of the stream.” The changes in the master plan are being brought Wednesday before the National Planning and Building Council, and if approved, will be brought before the cabinet for final approval.
“At this time, with the objection to the approval of the landfill plan still open, the proposed change is not appropriate and seems like an attempt to bypass the objection processes and dictate their outcome in advance,” Nir Shalev, a researcher for the Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights NGO told Haaretz. “It is beyond absurd to change a national master plan that applies to 22 million dunams [some 5.4 million acres] in order to enable the approval of a landfill plan on 500 dunams [124 acres].”
The Finance Ministry, which is now responsible for the planning administration, commented that National Master Plan 35 had been amended because elaborate provisions had already been set forth in National Master Plan 34, in a subsection on drainage and waterbeds. Since the provisions in NMP34 were more elaborate than in NMP35, the ministry summed up, it decided that redundancy had been created.