But residents say plan doesn’t address toxic waste left behind.
By Zafrir Rinat

The National Planning and Building Council yesterday approved one of the country’s largest construction plans, under which Israel Military Industries will move out of Ramat Hasharon and more than 20,000 housing units will be built on the vacated land.

The building permits will be issued only after the land, which has been polluted by decades of industrial activity, is cleansed and rehabilitated.
Israel Military Industries site in Ramat Hasharon – Alon Ron – 02112011

The Israel Military Industries site in Ramat Hasharon.
Photo by: Alon Ron

But the Israel Union for Environmental Defense (Adam Teva V’Din ), which represents Ramat Hasharon residents, blasted the decision to plan the construction before checking the extent of pollution in the ground.

“The approved plan means they have already determined where houses and schools will be built before determining the location and extent of the toxic pollution and the funds required to clean it up,” said the group’s director, Amit Bracha. “The state is abandoning its people and exposing them to health hazards.”

The plan, dubbed “Kidmat Sharon,” was prepared by the Israel Lands Administration. It covers an area of some 5,000 dunams, half of which is earmarked for 23,000 housing units – enough for a medium-sized town. The other half is slated to remain open, and a park will be built on part of it.

For decades, IMI failed to remove and treat its waste, so huge amounts of missile fuel, explosive materials and extremely toxic substances flowed into the ground and permeated the groundwater. Consequently, the Ramat Hasharon region now has the worst groundwater pollution in Israel. This is on top of the industrial pollution that remains in the ground itself.

Ramat Hasharon residents therefore conducted a legal battle against the plan, demanding that before the authorities approve it, they conduct a comprehensive land survey and carry out the required waste clean-up. The Supreme Court, to which they ultimately appealed with the help of the IUED, ruled that they should voice their objections during the planning process, but could return to court if the planning authorities rejected their arguments.

The finance and environmental protection ministries, however, decided on a different course than the one the residents wanted: They linked the rehabilitation of the land, which is expected to cost billions of shekels, to the progress of the construction plan. The current plan says that the state will finance surveys to determine the kind and extent of the pollution, then clean up the waste before issuing building permits.

But it is not clear how the continuing groundwater pollution will be treated. The money for this, estimated at hundreds of millions of shekels, was not included in the new plan, which refers only to the ground pollution.