• 03 MAR 13
    • 0

    Mare Nostrum partners explore Israel’s coastline

    Representatives of Mare Nostrum partner organizations spent the first day of the project’s “kickoff meeting” touring Israel’s coastline from north to south, in what project head Prof. Rachelle Alterman described as the “first-ever” tour of Israel’s coastline focused on law, spatial planning and regulation.

    Rosh Hanikra 

    Israel’s coastline extends some 200 km, from Rosh Hanikra on the border with Lebanon in the north to Gaza in the south. In that relatively limited area, multiple uses compete for space, with some 150 km either already built or planned for use. Approximately three-quarters of Israel’s fast-growing population lives in urban areas along the coast, making cities and other residential areas a major contributor to development pressure along the Mediterranean. Military installations, infrastructure, nature preserves and other uses make up the rest.

    The day began in the north, at Rosh Hanikra. Conference participants took a cable car down to the grottoes underneath the border, where a ranger from Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority described the challenges of protecting that part of Israel’s marine environment. Current and proposed regulations for “protected areas” were discussed, as well as the implications for marine flora and fauna of military activities and recent discoveries of natural gas deposits.

    Heading south, the members heard from Nir Papai, of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI), about the struggle for the Beztet beach (similar to the more famous  Palmahim beach near Ashkelon). There, environmentalists managed to roll back developers’ plans for resort construction.

    In Haifa, the group heard back-to-back presentations by the COO of the Israel Ports Authority Dov Frohlinger and planners from the Kishon Stream Authority. While the two organizations’ offices are located in the same compound, where the Kishon estuary meets the Haifa port and marina, they are locked in a conflict over plans to expand the port. The port’s management wants to use the banks of the stream, beyond the 10 meters on each bank protected by law, for storage of shipping containers, while the Stream Authority is pushing for that area to become a public park.  An interim compromise has been reached for widening the protected zone, but the issue is still before the national planning authorities.

    Ela Alexandri of SPNI discussed some of the environmental issues and conflicts along the City of Haifa’s coastline. These include a conflict over plans to electrify the train, whose tracks divide the city from its seafront; civic activists and city hall have proposed an alternative plan to move the train underground so as to enable a pedestrian connection to the seafront.  Later in the week, head city planner Ariel Waterman would tell the group that Haifa’s connection with the sea is the most pressing planning issue on the city’s agenda and that city hall has been making great efforts to convince the Ports Authority to open at least part of its premises to the public.

    The next stop on the tour was Netanya, where chief planner Paul Vital took the group on a bus tour of some of the coastal city’s new neighborhoods. He spoke about the city’s efforts to clean up a massive garbage dump, built right on the coastline, and replace it with public green spaces and limited real estate. Vital also showed the group around a memorial for Red Army veterans, built inside a coastal park and inaugurated by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Vital, who was born in Greece, chatted with the group’s large Greek delegation in their native tongue.

     Paul Vital tells Mare Nostrum reps about future plans for the coastal city

    The final stop of the tour was in Herzliya, where Prof. Alterman spoke about the city’s marina, approved in the 1990s with “vacation apartments,” a quasi-legal designation invented to soften the prohibition on building apartments adjacent to the coastline. Over the years, the question of vacation apartments has been repeatedly challenged in the courts, but it remains something of a gray area. This and similar legal loopholes which facilitate development on the coast were familiar to many of the project’s partners.

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