Israel Okays Funding for Arab Towns to Deal With Environmental Hazards

Initiative will give priority to areas lacking regular waste collection.

The Forum for a Green Israel

The Environmental Protection Ministry has announced a new program for dealing with environmental hazards and improving the infrastructure for waste collection in 73 Arab, Druze and Bedouin local authorities. This constitutes an expansion of an earlier program that was initiated in Bedouin communities in the Negev.

Environmental Protection Minister Avi Gabbay and the ministry’s director general Yisrael Danziger presented the program on Tuesday to representatives of these local authorities at a meeting held in the community of Yafia, near Nazareth. The meeting was also attended by MK Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint Arab List. Some 300 million shekels ($75 million) have been allocated to this program, which is based on a government decision taken two years ago. Funds will be distributed to local authorities based on their rate of progress in implementing plans for collecting and treating waste and other hazards.

The initiative will give priority to areas in which there is currently no regular waste collection. The goal is to increase waste collection by at least 50 percent and replace two thirds of waste containers in order to make collection more efficient. The ministry will try to facilitate sorting of the waste in order to allow recycling of various forms of packaging, electronic waste and tree cuttings. There are already some Arab communities with containers for empty bottles, but the volume of recycling is still low. Ten Arab local authorities have written agreements with agencies dealing in waste recycling.

An important new feature is the clearing of environmental hazards. These communities have numerous illegal waste disposal sites, particularly for construction waste. There are numerous such sites in the Galilee, where waste is usually burned in order to reduce volume and extract any waste metal. This leads to toxic gases which reach nearby communities. One of the most egregious examples of such hazards is the concentration of waste sites and hazards between the communities of Tira, Taibeh and Kalansua in central Israel, where a large-scale project has been underway for the last two years in an effort to remove a large mountain of waste.