06/01/2012 06:43
Service station will be an economic stimulus for the region, providing 800 jobs, Interior Ministry says.

A large plot of arid desert land in the country’s Arava region will soon become a service and dismantling hub to about 500 aircraft.

The Committee for Principal Planning under the Interior Ministry’s National Planning and Building Council approved the proposal on Tuesday in a majority vote, and the 260-hectare (642-acre) site will crop up next to the Ovda Airport, where it will be integrated with the facility’s operations, according to the ministry.

The service station will be an economic stimulus for the region, providing 800 jobs, of which 500 will be engineering – leading to further professional development of the periphery, the ministry said. Constructing the site will be Airpark Ltd., a subsidiary of IES Holdings that is run by CEO Doron Segev.

Regarding the ecological impact, the Interior Ministry said that the Environmental Protection Ministry had already approved an environmental assessment of the location. Despite heavy criticism from green groups, the Committee for Principal Planning decided that aircraft scrapping would be a vital component of the site’s operations and would constitute only a “minor [activity] that is done in a designated area in order to prevent environmental damage.”

To make sure that scrapping is kept to a low, environmentally friendly volume, the ministry said it had assigned a Committee for Surveillance and Inspection to monitor the scrapping programs.

The planning committee cited Eilot Regional Council head Udi Gat as expressing his approval of the plans and stressing that the site’s establishment would bring development opportunities to the region.

The Society for the Protection of Nature argued, however, that the site would infringe on the ecological uniqueness of the area, and sent SPNI planning director Itamar Ben-David, attorney Noa Yayon and ecologist Yoav Perlman to argue at the committee’s Tuesday hearing.

However, the board rejected the green group’s complaints.

“Unfortunately, instead of saving natural treasures and the unique landscape of the Arava and supporting the local population, it was decided [on Tuesday] in Israel to bring hundreds of tons of trash per year and transform the South of Israel into the garbage bin of the world,” an SPNI statement read.

In response, Airpark said the project had the “utmost compatibility [with] the environment,” and stressed that there had been a comprehensive environmental survey addressing all potential issues. Regarding airplane disassembly, the company said, “the program includes an unequivocal commitment to recycling and reuse,” and at least 90 percent of the parts dismantled will be recycled.

Approximately 15 planes will be dismantled per year, added Airpark, and the resulting waste will not exceed the amount of waste that the city of Eilat produces in one day.

The site, the company continued, would provide hundreds of jobs to those in technical professions and would encourage immigration to the southern region.