Green light for cargo terminals would also kill option of metropolitan park

Zafrir Rinat | May 28, 2020 | 4:28 AM

Two plans to significantly expand activity at Ben-Gurion Airport will raise the risk of flooding in the winter, nearby communities charge.

They also say the plans will damage the area’s green lungs. Both plans were approved by planning agencies over the past few weeks.

The Central District planning and building committee authorized the airport to build cargo terminals and a parking lot for planes over 12,000 dunams in the airport’s northern section – its last remaining land reserves for development. But part of this land is near the Beit Arif and Yehud streams, which run high during the winter rains.

And the National Planning and Building Council authorized the Netivei Israel road company to build a new road running north of the airport that would link two nearby interchanges, Shapirim in the west and Tayasim in the east. This road would allow easy access to the area where the cargo terminals will be built, as well as serving the thousands of new homes that are slated to be built in the vicinity.

But both plans will affect the Beit Arif stream, which joins the Yehud stream near the airport. Construction near waterways reduces water’s ability to drain naturally by seeping into the ground and therefore increases flooding. The Environmental Protection Ministry has therefore urged that most streams be preserved as “green lungs” during planning processes.

Moreover, various planning agencies have promoted the idea of creating a metropolitan park along the Beit Arif stream that would hook up with other nearby parks to reach the outskirts of Tel Aviv-Jaffa. But this idea has never been approved, and planning officials say it will become impossible if the two airport plans come to fruition.

Nearby towns, including Yehud and Or Yehuda, say they are worried that both plans will increase the risk of winter floods. They also object to the fact that the plans would undermine the park project, since the territory allotted to the road is part of the territory they envisioned for the park.

The Yarkon drainage authority, which is responsible for drainage in the area, objected to the plans during the approval process, saying they didn’t take the damage to the stream into account. It also argued that the new road had no justification, as transportation needs could be met by upgrading existing roads and adding more bus lines.

But the planning committees reject all arguments against the projects.

The national council concluded that the road plan addressed the drainage issue sufficiently, including by widening the stream. It also said the plan balanced all the competing public interests, including the desire to create a park there.

Regarding the airport expansion, the Central District Planning Committee addressed the drainage issue by conditioning the project’s final approval on maintaining unbuilt areas at least 50 meters wide on both sides of the stream. It also said the project would have to be implemented in coordination with the drainage authority, and that if the unbuilt area along the stream needed to be expanded, the plan would have to be changed to make this possible.