Rare Natural Pool in Tel Aviv Endangered by Planned Parking Lot, Warns Green Group

Zafrir Rinat
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An aerial view of the construction, right, and the winter pool, left.
An aerial view of the construction, right, and the winter pool, left. Credit: Dov Greenblatt / SPNI
Zafrir Rinat

A rare natural winter pool in Tel Aviv, considered to be an important ecological site, is in danger due to the construction of a parking lot being erected as part of the city’s light rail project, warn environmentalists.

The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, which sounded the warning, also claims the work on the “Park and Ride” lot is being conducted without a permit.

The Tel Aviv Municipality and the company carrying out the work both deny the claims.

The controversy involves a parking lot being built to help Holon residents reach Tel Aviv more easily during the years that construction of the Tel Aviv light rail is underway. The work is being carried out for the NTA Metropolitan Mass Transit System Ltd — which is responsible for the light rail project — by the Ahutzat Hahof corporation owned by the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality.

A system of pools, considered to be one of the five most ecologically important winter pool sites in the country, is located close to the parking lot. The municipality recognized the pool’s importance several months ago following a visit to the site by Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai.

Light-rail construction in Maariv Junction in central Tel Aviv. August 2015. Credit: Ofer Vaknin

Last week the director of the Tel Aviv branch of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) along with an environmental planner, informed the municipality that the work underway threatens to prevent the natural drainage of rainwater into the pool.

The SPNI claims that the plan calls for rainwater to be diverted away from the pool and into the artificial concrete channel that runs along the Ayalon Highway. They also contend that all the work is being done without the supervision of an ecologist and without a required building permit and is likely to cause serious damage to the site.

Prior to the start of construction, the Israel Lands Authority initiated a clean up of the area which involved removing the garbage that had accumulated at the site as a result of an illegal squatter.

“The SPNI’s claim is not clear, since the place has served until now as an illegal site for garbage and for squatting,” stated the NTA in response. “Preparing the site as a ‘Park and Ride’ lot that will serve the residents of Holon and the area, will bring an end to the mountains of garbage and the illegal squatting. The work is being carried out according to the law and all the necessary permits and planning, including the drainage, is being done by the Ahuzat Hahof corporation.”

The municipality’s responsed that “As opposed to the claim, the ‘Park and Ride’ lot near the Holon Junction is being built in accordance with all the necessary permits. The Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality sees great importance in the existence of the winter pools as part of the green nature sites in the city, and the work is being done under close ecological supervision. During the building the area was cleaned and a natural bio-filter system was installed, which filters the water that flows into the pool and makes it possible to preserve the quality and cleanliness of the water, and prevents damage to the winter pool.”

Last week another winter pool was destroyed in the Hadera area due to construction work. The work was done legally. The SPNI had hoped to move part of the natural flora to an alternative site, but managed to relocate only some of the plants.

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