Energy and Water Resources Minister Uzi Landau announced the allocation, but not before an environmental group warns that without regular budgets the systems will collapse again.
By Zafrir Rinat | Jun.28, 2012

After years of neglect that has frequently led to the collapse of the sewerage infrastructure in Arab towns and the pollution of local streams, the government is allocating NIS 355 million for improvements to sewerage systems in Arab locales.

Energy and Water Resources Minister Uzi Landau announced the allocation on Wednesday. But environmental group Zalul warned that without regular budgets to maintain these systems they will simply collapse again.

In recent years the collapse of sewer infrastructure in Arab towns has caused serious pollution of streams and nature reserves, including Nahal Kziv and Nahal Beit Hakerem in the Galilee.

“The sewage project in outlying areas is important and we must stress the towns in the Arab sector,” Landau told the Economic Conference on Green Growth in Tel Aviv. “The way we’ve neglected this leaves us with a bad feeling.”

Landau said his ministry had reached an agreement with the treasury to increase budgets and grants for sewer systems and waste treatment plants in Arab towns.

Zalul, meanwhile, appeared Wednesday before the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee and suggested the creation of a fund that would be used to repair sewage problems in poorer cities that do not belong to any water or sewage corporation – mainly Arab towns in outlying areas.

According to the group, in recent years the state has spent NIS 7 billion on sewage pipes and treatment facilities, but because small cities don’t have the budgets to maintain them, they collapse and some 20% of the wastewater ends up in local streams.

Some 400 sewerage malfunctions occur every year, resulting in the pollution of 71 streams. Often repairs aren’t even expensive, Zalul said. The serious pollution of Nahal Beit Hakerem, for example, could have been prevented with a budget of NIS 8,000 a month, the group said.

Under Zalul’s plan, the fund, to be financed from the budget of several government ministries, would maintain a list of contractors who would be obligated to fix and help maintain pipes and pumping stations.

Many Arab towns also have difficulty with garbage collection because they lack the funds. At a conference on waste recycling held Monday, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan said he was considering the transfer of a portion of the fees paid by local authorities for waste burial to Arab and ultra-Orthodox towns so that these could set up and maintain basic systems for collecting and sorting waste.