Neglect Turns Nature Reserve in Israel Into Garbage Dump

The reserve near the city of Rehovot has a wide selection of tropical trees and wild flowers

Zafrir Rinat
Hashita Hamalbina nature reserve.
Hashita Hamalbina nature reserve.Credit: Ilan Assayag
Zafrir Rinat

The nature reserve Hashita Hamalbina (also known as Acacia Albida) is a small natural treasure on the outskirts of Rehovot. All the authorities agree it should be protected, but by the time they get around to it, there may not be anything left to protect.

While the spot is waiting to be officially recognized, outlaws are dumping garbage in it and SUVs are wreaking havoc in its landscape.

Numerous Rehovot residents and environmentalists, for whom this reserve is a favorite hiking site, have been following the goings on in it. “In recent months more and more garbage is being dumped here,” says Igor Armiach, a member of the Facebook group “Artzot Hahamra” (red soil or clay countries), intended to encourage the preservation of red soil and gravel areas such as this reserve.

“They dump building debris and carcasses there,” Armiach says. “They brought bulldozers that built routes and dug in the earth to enable dumping more garbage. The farmers guard the surrounding areas so it’s convenient to throw everything in this small reserve and it looks horrible.”

פסולת בשמורת השיטה המלבינה, השבוע
Hashita Hamalbina nature reserve. Credit: Ilan Assayag

He says some of the area, where protected and rare shrubbery used to grow, was burned and used for garbage dumping instead.

The reserve consists of a mere 26 dunams, but even this space is rare in the central region, where urban development is gnawing incessantly at the open spaces. It is named after the tropical acacia trees in it and despite its size boasts a rich variety of wild plants like allium telavivense, maresia pulchella, Persian buttercup, and Holy orchid.

The authorities defined the area a nature reserve in the master plans, but until they declare it officially as one the Nature and Parks Authority cannot fence it or fine the garbage dumpers.

ציפורים בשמורת השיטה המלבינה, השבוע
Hashita Hamalbina nature reserve. Credit: Ilan Assayag
שמורת השיטה המלבינה, השבוע
Hashita Hamalbina nature reserve. Credit: Ilan Assayag

Due to the reserve’s bleak state, Yoel Hadida of the Greens Party asked Environmental Protection Minister Zeev Elkin this week to declare the reserve a protected site. The minister is authorized to grant protection to areas designated to become reserves or national parks even before they are officially declared as such. The law is intended to prevent these sites’ destruction from continued damage before the bureaucratic process is completed.

Hadida says that in this case the minister has every reason to act. For one thing, he says the move would enable banning SUVs from entering the site.

The Nature and Parks Authority’s central district planner, Mira Avneri, says one of the things obstructing the site’s announcement as a nature reserve is the private ownership of part of its land and the need to compensate the owners.

“We have no authority to act in a private area apart from cleaning it up,” she says. “We’re trying to locate some of the land owners to ask us to let us at least fence the area and our inspector is acting with the residents to keep the site clean.”

Avneri says Acacia Albida is not the only reserve in danger due to similar circumstances. Part of the National Park Sandstone Hills in Ness Ziona, the National Park in Hof Hasharon and the reserve near the Soreq Stream estuary are also in the process of being declared nature reserves. Meanwhile they are suffering heavy damage due to garbage dumping and SUVs. The Environmental Protection Ministry said, “As far as the ministry knows, the planning authorities are advancing the status of the site in question as a nature reserve. After the Nature and Parks Authority delivers the plan, the ministry will examine declaring the area a protected compound, even before it is declared a nature reserve by law.”

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