“A population that doubles itself and has no adequate infrastructure is in real danger of developing slums, and facing a situation in which garbage is dumped in the street and raw sewage rises and flows in the streets. We don’t want to be there.”
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This warning was issued by Planning Administration director-general Dalit Zilber this week. Zilber spoke at a discussion about the large gaps between the sewage, water, electricity and waste infrastructure in Tel Aviv and the surrounding cities, and the goals of the strategic infrastructure plan to accommodate the expected population increase of 3.6 million residents in some 1 million apartments in the next 20 years.
Zilber’s caution brought to mind the scenes from last winter, in which the couple Stav Harari and Dean Shoshani, both 25, died after being trapped in a flooded elevator in south Tel Aviv. A year later the floods are recurring in Ra’anana, Hod Hasharon, Ramat Aviv and Nahariya.
This is not surprising. Israel has accelerated its planning pace in recent years to accommodate the expected population growth in Tel Aviv and the central region. However, few cabinet ministries are coordinating their long term plans with each other and with the planning agencies to ensure that people are actually able to live in the planned apartments.
The Planning Administration has found that the existing infrastructure in Ramat Hasharon, Petah Tikva, Ramat Gan and Givatayim cannot ensure minimal life quality for the residents who will be added to these cities. Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Bnei Brak, Herzliya, Netanya, Kfar Sava, Or Yehuda and Rehovot are also facing serious drainage problems.
It is no accident that Herzliya Mayor Moshe Padlon has been “threatening” for two years that he won’t take in new residents.
There is no connection between the ministries and government corporations’ work and that of the planning system’s. For example, the water and sewage corporations, which are responsible for the urban sewage systems, are subordinate to the Water Authority, which was subordinate to the energy minister and moved to the jurisdiction of the water resources minister. But in fact they are within the jurisdiction of the local governments, which are subordinate to the interior minister.
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The ministries must act together, with the help of a coordinating, interdisciplinary body, to remove obstacles and to quickly plan and carry out infrastructure solutions. Unless they do so, the residents will suffer from a dysfunctional infrastructure that cannot fulfill minimal requirements.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.