Hundreds protest planned desalination plant on coast in Western Galilee
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Hundreds protest planned desalination plant on coast in Western Galilee

Local residents say facility would unduly damage the environment, when it could be constructed in a nearby industrial zone instead

A demonstration against the construction of a desalination plant on the coast in the Western Galilee, July 30, 2019 (Yuval Hadar)
A demonstration against the construction of a desalination plant on the coast in the Western Galilee, July 30, 2019 (Yuval Hadar)

More than five hundred protesters blocked traffic on Tuesday morning along the Route 4 highway in the Western Galilee to protest a proposal to construct a water desalination plant on the coastline — listed by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority as a possible nature reserve — next to an army base and between the communities of Shavei Zion and Bustan Hagalil.

Area residents have been fighting the plant’s construction since 2009, insisting that it should be built in the Acre industrial zone, 10 kilometers away — to which the Acre municipality has agreed — rather than along a pristine beach.

“The original plans established by the government called for the plant’s construction on or near an industrial area but this plant will be right in the middle of residential areas,” said Mateh Asher Regional Council spokeswoman Yael Shavit, attending the demonstration along with other Regional Council heads.

Concern about extensive pollution to the air and sea, Shavit said, has raised awareness that “we can’t accept this proposal.”

A stretch of beach in the Western Galilee where authorities are proposing to construct a water desalination plant (Yuval Hadar)

She added: “It defies all logic.”

“The plant will endanger the fish and natural environment of the sea,” said Tidhar Efron, 17, who wind-surfs in the area. “There is no reason to build it here.”

There are currently five desalination plants in Israel.

The residents protesting the plant now have thirty days to present their arguments to the National Planning Committee before its final vote. Yuval Hadar, one of the organizers of the protest, said that they will present experts’ findings that the water near the Acre industrial zone has been found to be as clean as the water in the proposed area — one of the reasons the National Planning Committee has given for the site’s selection.

A demonstration against the construction of a desalination plant on the coast in the Western Galilee, July 30, 2019 (Yuval Hadar)

“This is a factory that should be built in an industrial zone,” Hadar said. “We will fight the decision now and all the way to the Supreme Court.”

Among the protesters were residents from surrounding communities including Bustan Hagalil, Kibbutz Lohamei Hageta’ot, Kibbutz Evron and Shavei Zion, whose residents successfully fought against construction of the plant on the community’s agricultural lands.

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