Park Near Hiriya Held Up by Delay in Land Transfer

The Ariel Sharon Park, one of the most important environmental projects in the country, is stuck in its tracks. Land near Hiriya, a former garbage dump near Ben-Gurion Airport upon which the park is to be built, has not yet been transferred to the Ariel Sharon Park Planning and Building Company, the governmental office in charge of the project. As a result, no work on the park has been completed.

There is also concern about the fate of plans for a waste treatment plant to be erected on the site, which would serve the Tel Aviv metropolitan area (Gush Dan).

Sharon Park is to spread over 8,000 dunams (2,000 acres), and to become a major open green space for Gush Dan residents. In addition, there are plans to rehabilitate and redesign the "waste mountain" at Hiriya (a massive mound of garbage), and erect a recycling center at its base.

Building and financing of the project is dependent on the transfer of the land to the park planning offices from various bodies, via the Israel Lands Administration. However, the lands administration has not carried out these transfers, nor has it transferred the land on which the Hiriya garbage dump lies.

"We do not yet have a centimeter in our control," says attorney Tzipi Isser-Itzik, acting chair of the Sharon Park offices. "Our budget is allotted by the government and the Beracha Fund, but on the condition that the land be placed under our jurisdiction."

In the absence of solutions to several land issues, the Sharon Park company refused to take responsibility for the area where a recycling center for building materials now operates. The Dan Region Association of Towns for Sanitation and Waste Disposal, which treats garbage in an area immediately adjacent to Hiriya, would not agree to take charge either. As a result, work on the site was shut down for over a week and it is unclear where thousands of tons of garbage were taken in that time. This week the Dan association agreed to assume responsibility for the site until the issues are resolved.

There have also been delays in the issuing of permits needed to carry out various projects for treating urban waste. "We aren't receiving permits because the question of authority has not been settled," Doron Sapir, chairman of the Dan sanitation association, told Haaretz.

Supporters of the Sharon Park say that one of the issues slowing down such an agreement is that the ILA has not yet come to an understanding with the land owners, including the Tel Aviv municipality. The ILA is willing to transfer areas currently leased to the Sharon Park offices if it assumes responsibility for legal claims connected to them. However, the company can take on such responsibility only if it is authorized by the government to do so, and if funds are allocated for this purpose.

The Israel Lands Administration responded by saying: "The claim that we are causing delays is incorrect. The leasing agreement for the Ariel Sharon Park Company was authorized about a half year ago. Contracts were sent to the company managing the park, but have not been signed to this day; despite [the lack of signed contracts], requests for permits - including one for the design of the 'waste mountain' - have not been held back."

The Environmental Protection Ministry says that an agreement has not been reached on how to transfer the land and that each side is holding firm to its views. According to the ministry, the problem will be solved by an administrative decision, by government ministers, or via a compromise set by the Finance Ministry.