New Construction Projects Threaten Tel Aviv-area Beaches

The projects range from infrastructure through new neighborhoods to tourist attractions.

Some 20 different construction projects are threatening the remaining beaches in the Tel Aviv area, according to a new study published by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.

The projects range from infrastructure through new neighborhoods to tourist attractions. But all could directly damage the beaches and decrease public accessibility, SPNI said.

Tal Silberstein, who authored the report, examined various projects and plans that could affect the Herzliya, Tel Aviv and Bat Yam beaches. In light of his findings, SPNI is demanding that the plans be changed to decrease damage to the beaches, and is promoting a plan to declare parts of the Jaffa beach a nature reserve.

One of the projects in question, now being discussed by the Tel Aviv District Planning Committee, is a request by the oil exploration company Adira Energy to construct a drilling platform some 20 kilometers off the Herzliya beach. SPNI said this could cause severe damage or pollution, and submitted several documents to the committee to support its position.

Other plans that could be hazardous to the sea and beaches are a plan to construct a pipeline carrying natural gas from the Reading power plant to Rosh Ha'ayin and a plan to use a water pipeline at the power plant to receive mazut, a heavy fuel oil. SPNI said the environmental hazards inherent in these plans necessitate extremely careful planning procedures.

Massive construction plans for Bat Yam's southern beaches, as well as both the southern and northern beaches of Herzliya, are in the final stage of approval. These plans would reduce the open areas near the beaches. SPNI is demanding that the planned hotels in Bat Yam be at least 100 meters from the beach.

SPNI is not opposing construction plans in Tel Aviv and Herzliya, after it succeeded in getting the construction of a park along the beach included in the plans. But environmental activists in Tel Aviv vehemently oppose the plans, fearing damage to the nearby cliffs.

Lately, activists and residents have also waged a campaign against the construction of underground parking lots near Tel Aviv's Sde Dov airport, fearing further damage to the cliffs. The activists, including former municipal engineer Yisrael Godovitch, appealed to the Environmental Protection Ministry, which admitted that the danger is real but supported the plan anyway. The ministry said various procedures have been instituted to ensure optimal protection of the cliffs. But that answer did little to convince the residents, who continue to believe that construction of the parking lot might have dire consequences.

Various plans to construct promenades also constitute a danger, according to SPNI. Its report is particularly wary of plans to build a promenade that would connect Jaffa and Bat Yam, and therefore proposes several guidelines to safeguard the local cliffs. SPNI also opposes a plan to build a promenade in Herzliya that would further narrow the already narrow beach.

Herzliya residents are already battling the plan, with help from Adam Teva V'Din (the Israel Union for Environmental Defense ), which submitted an appeal against the plan to the district planning committee. Last week, the Environmental Protection Ministry submitted its opinion, which was that the promenade could be built without harming the beach, but nevertheless, it would be necessary to monitor the beach continually during and after the promenade's construction.

The Herzliya municipality said it sees "eye to eye" with SPNI with regard to preserving open spaces and the beach, and that the plans are still "in early stages."

The Bat Yam municipality said "the old plans have been altered to create a park," adding that of the six planned hotels, only three were approved, and plans for those were changed so as not to block access to the sea. These three are now slated to be built 300 meters from the waterline, it said.