12/28/2011 03:57

Green groups won’t compromise.
Talkbacks ()

Despite a last-ditch telephone attempt from Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan to convince Israel Lands Authority head Benzi Lieberman to nix the Samar sands mining project on Tuesday, the work is set to begin in the next few days.

The contentious Samar sands, located north of Eilat, are slated to be mined for construction use in the nearby city, but environmental activists have been protesting this decision for months, due to the uniquely isolated biodiversity located within the sands. Of the original 1,100 hectares of sand, only 20 percent remain after previous mining stints, and the flora and fauna still residing there are thought to have genetic links to those in the Sahara Desert.

The ILA recently offered the green groups a compromise, offering to mine approximately only 1 million tons of sand from the “gimmel” section of the Samar – leaving the “daled” and “hey” plots untouched as declared nature reserves – but the environmental organizations did not collectively agree to this compromise.

Following a meeting last week with representatives from several NGOs that have been protesting the Samar sand mining – the Society for the Protection of Nature (SPNI), Adam Teva V’Din (Israel Union for Environmental Defense) and the Center for a Healthy Environment in the Arava (Sabab’a) – Erdan phoned Lieberman on Tuesday to inform him that he too would not be backing the compromise and would continue the fight against the project, officials from the Environmental Protection Ministry told The Jerusalem Post.

Likewise, SPNI has also vowed to carry on its campaign, and maintains that there are other, less-vibrant areas in the region from which the contractors could mine their sand.

“Mining the sand in the Samar would be a fatal blow to the animals in the dunes and to an area of leisure and recreation, and therefore, there is no room for compromise, especially when there are alternatives available that would prevent the destruction of the dunes,” a statement released by SPNI said. “The public struggle for preserving the valued nature and landscape of the sands will continue at full strength.”