Israel's Green Lung Disease

Haaretz Editorial
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The Glilot area, an urban green lung
Haaretz Editorial

South Glilot area, on the northern edges of Tel Aviv, fits the definition of an urban green lung almost perfectly. It’s a large open area, rich with plant and animal life as well as agricultural and cultural heritage sites that provide a place for leisure activities for residents of the surrounding areas and beyond.

But the odds of the area, or at least significant parts of it, remaining this way have diminished significantly following a decision of the ministerial committee on planning, construction, land and housing. On Monday the committee designated South Glilot as a preferred site for residential construction, putting it in the hands of the National Committee for Planning and Building Preferred Residential Complexes, or CPRC.

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The CPRC is a goal-oriented planning body designed to provide the state with large amounts of land zoned for construction. Given Israel’s housing crisis, there is no question that this is a vital national mission. But housing cannot be separated from the environment. The benefits conferred by so-called green lungs health are critical to human life and to sustaining a rich world of flora and fauna, which is worthy of protection for its own sake.

Experience teaches that the planning committee, by definition as well as its assigned goals, doesn’t give adequate weight to environmental considerations. Its powers exceed those of other planning bodies and most master plans, making it virtually impossible to appeal or amend its decisions. It is obligated to comply with an accelerated timetable in order to free up land for development as quickly as possible.

South Glilot joins a growing list of green lungs the CPRC is threatening to destroy. Development plans for which the committee is responsible will damage ecological corridors in the areas of Kfar Sava and Binyamina. Another threatens open spaces east of Rehovot. In other areas, the committee’s plans cut deep into agricultural areas, which also play an important role in creating a high quality of life on the outskirts of Israel’s urban areas.

Israel needs an appropriate balance between its housing and other building needs and preservation of the environment, especially at a time when the country is becoming increasingly crowded and vulnerable to the dangers of climate change. Under the circumstances, planning committees should be instructed to focus on increasing population density in existing urban areas. These panels need to have a balanced composition and a planning vision that reflects the full range of interests.

Today, these demands are better met by the district planning and building committees and the National Planning and Building Council. The activities of the committee with supreme authorities, which shorten the path to a bleak environmental future, should be curtailed as much as possible.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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