By SHARON UDASIN 12/25/2014

Deputy Environmental Protection Minister Ofir Akunis will submit to the cabinet on Sunday a NIS 17 million plan for the rehabilitation of areas affected by the Arava Desert oil spill earlier this month.

If the ministry’s proposal is approved, the government would allocate the NIS 17m.

and a boost in manpower to treat the soils contaminated by the oil spill as well as the injured wildlife populations. As part of the plan, a special team would be established to check the environmental impact of Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Company activities on both dry land and beaches.

“This is a first and immediate step in repairing the injustice inflicted upon the entire public, to animals and to plants in the Arava,” Akunis said. “We will apply the ‘polluter pays’ principle to the EAPC.”

The Environmental Protection Ministry’s proposal also involves opening a closed Eilat beach on EAPC-owned property to the city’s residents. In this coastal strip, ministry officials said, there are likely a wealth of rare natural resources and beautiful fish.

Akunis has pledged that as part of the plan, he would appoint a special director to oversee the rehabilitation and monitoring activities.

A final portion of the proposal would involve the expansion of the Avrona Nature Reserve for use by animals and members of the public, to compensate for the areas undergoing rehabilitation, the ministry said.