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I Became Ill With Respiratory Cancer – My Son Was Having Trouble Breathing

A resident of Mitzpe Ilan tearfully told the Interior Committee hearing about the smoke and charcoal pollution in the Northern Samaria. Representatives from Regavim responded to the Knesset members: You should know better, the legislation has been in the law books for a long time, the problem is the lack of enforcement.

The smokestacks operating in the Northern Samaria have for many years been polluting the air for hundreds of thousands of residents in Hadera, Charish, Pardes Hannah, and the communities in Northern Samaria and Menashe Regional Council.

The smokestacks produce coal in the unique polluting combustion process, which is derived primarily from waste from pruned branches and foliage of farmers within the Green Line. Following a petition by Regavim to the Supreme Court in 2012, the smokestacks operating in Area C under full Israeli control were closed, but the ones located in areas controlled by the palestinian authority continue to work and air pollution continues as before.

At a hearing on Tuesday in the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, the committee chairman, MK Dudu Amsalem stated that he convened an inter-ministerial team headed by the Ministry of Agriculture designed to solve the problem of the smokestacks and that in two weeks an order prohibiting the transfer of yard waste and foliage without a permit will be signed. Fifteen trained inspectors to enforce the order will be put into action.  The Environment Ministry announced an allocation for a budget for crushed foliage and pruning that will give a solution for farmers and prevent burning.

Meir Deutsch, policy department director for Regavim, presented before the committee members data and numbers. “You are being tricked.  We are now in the fifth hearing and already there is a military order prohibiting the transfer of the cuttings with a penalty of five years in prison,” said Deutsch. “The problem is not the legislation but enforcement of the legislation. Today the authorities confiscate a truck for a few days and release them back into the hands of criminals sometimes still with the cuttings. To the best of our knowledge, zero indictments have been submitted so far. Without filing criminal charges and the imposition of heavy penalties, the pollution persists. The smoke does not take into consideration the green line.”

Rucha Shaar, one of the founders of the settlement Mitzpe Ilan, spoke about coping with respiratory tract cancer. “Cancer does not wait when the treatment of the problem goes from committee to committee and from desk drawer to desk drawer, the cancer just gets worse.  One can learn from cancer how to progress quickly and efficiently,” said Shaar in tears. “My son is dealing with respiratory problems. We cannot leave the situation without a solution. If there is no solution then tell us that officially we need to leave town.”

In two months the committee will hold a hearing monitoring the implementation of the proposed solutions that emerged in the last hearing, however Regavim does not hold much hope.  “We welcome the proposals for action raised in the discussion, but after quite a few years that we are dealing with the issue we are well schooled in promises and disappointments,” sums up Regavim.  “We will continue to closely follow-up and pressure the authorities until they implement the solutions.  Hundreds of thousands of citizens do not have to breathe polluted air.”

For further information or to arrange an interview please call Avraham Binyamin, Regavim spokesman 052 7203182.