Tel Aviv to Discuss Master Plan for Protecting Dozens of Natural Sites

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Buildings can be seen on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea in Tel Aviv, Israel, August 8, 2013.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

The Tel Aviv municipality will discuss this week whether to establish a master plan that would protect dozens of natural sites around the city. If the plan is green-lit, Tel Aviv-Jaffa will follow in the footsteps of Jerusalem, which was the first Israeli city to approve such a plan.

Heading the list of most important sites for preservation are two places in the coastal region, a winter pool in the south of the city, and several sites near the Yarkon River. The local Planning and Building Committee is set to discuss the proposal on Wednesday.

The master plan was initiated and prepared by the municipality, in conjunction with the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel. It is based on a comprehensive survey conducted four years ago, which drew up a list of 51 potential sites. The plan relates to sites in open spaces, including sand dunes, beaches and rivers, as well as sites in built-up areas such as municipal parks, boulevards, backyards and roofs. For example, the old Ramat Aviv neighborhood is considered a natural site due to the wide variety of wild flora in gardens and backyards, and the various types of wild animals – including an endangered breed of hedgehog – and owls nesting in trees.

The sites were ranked in order of importance, based on indicators such as the abundance of flora; the number of unique species; connection to nearby sites; and the current level of preservation.

The most important sites are actually located in the sea – by Jaffa’s Givat Aliyah beach and Tel Baruch beach in north Tel Aviv. Both sites feature a bedrock in shallow water, formed in part by limestone-secreting snails. These tables are a habitat for many species of marine life.

In third place is a winter pool in the south of the city, which boasts a large group of amphibians. In fourth and fifth places, meanwhile, are two adjacent sites on a cliff on the northern coast, featuring five unique species of marine flora, porcupines and foxes, and the nesting sites of bee-eater birds. Several sites along or near the Yarkon River in the north of the city also received a high ranking.

According to the master plan, protection of the natural site must be considered in any urban development plan that might affect these areas. Based on an ecological survey, and in consultation with an ecologist, damage prevention will be conducted in any area where construction has been approved.

There are also rules for regular maintenance of the sites. For example, where there are uncultivated areas, chemical spraying of weeds will be forbidden. And if plants are to be grown, they must be local Israeli flora that are integrated into existing bushes to create undergrowth for animals. Site management will be undertaken via close cooperation with city residents.

The city has started to revive and rehabilitate several natural sites in recent years. However, the SPNI, which supports the master plan, says the municipality has not always adopted a policy that suits the plan. For example, it says recent development work performed in the area around the winter pool endangers the future of the site. It claims the work was done without the required permits, a charge the municipality denies.

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