Be’er Sheva frequently suffers from heatwaves and sandstorms, and to cope with that, city’s municipality decided to build neighborhoods of trees instead of buildings and raise awareness for local public with ‘climate courses’

Ilana Curiel | Published: 10.20.21

The climate crisis can no longer be ignored, with phenomena like weather fluctuations, air and water pollution, extinction of animal and plant species, floods and storms making world leaders realize that without an immediate change the human race will suffer more and more unsolvable challenges.

So, how does acknowledging this problem can actually be conveyed into actions? We can look for an answer in the southern city of Be’er Sheva, where the local municipality has come up with some creative solutions to the problem.

באר שבע, בירת הנגב
Be’er Sheva
(Photo: Haim Horenstein)

Be’er Sheva faces a series of challenges that are a direct outcome of the climate crisis. Prof. Adi Wolfson from SCE-Sami Shamoon College of Engineering – an advisor to the city on environment and sustainability issues – explains that heatwaves, which have been increasing in frequency in southern Israel in recent years, can put residents at risk. They can also cause power outages, which could harm hospitals and assisted living facilities among others.

The highest temperature ever measured in the city in recorded history was 46 degrees in June 1933, while in September 2020, a whooping 43.8 was reported. This data should be worrying since the raising heat in Be’er Sheva could cause a chain reaction, which might lead to a situation where it would be impossible to go outside during the day. This scenario would also entail a massive spike in the use of electricity with all its consequences.

The city also suffers from a lack of efficient public transportation, and as a result, it is easier to get around via a private vehicle, which is also detrimental to the environment.If these matters won’t be resolved soon, Be’er Sheva will be just as gridlocked and filthy as Tel Aviv, while the increased frequency of sandstorms, would make it extremely polluted.

אלפי עצים חדשים בדרך לעיר
Thousands of new trees around the city of Be’er Sheva
(Photo: Haim Horenstein)

Be’er Sheva predicted these dangers relatively early, and over the past decade the municipality has been working to minimize the effects of the climate crisis. In 2012, the municipality conducted a comprehensive greenhouse gas emissions survey, making a comprehensive plan to reduce pollution.

For example, instead of building a new neighborhood with 16,000 residential apartments, the municipality decided to plant a huge urban forest covering more than 5,500 hectares (13,590 acres) of land. So far, 4,000 new trees have been planted, with another 5,000 set to be planted in the coming months.

“You don’t have to look at everything from a real estate perspective,” said at the time Be’er Sheva Mayor Ruvik Danilovich.

The city also installed solar panels on the roofs of 32 public institutions to generate renewable energy, and they are currently working on installing them on 21 more buildings.In addition, the municipality is also set to examine a possibility to promote the construction of the so-called “zero energy” buildings that have net-zero energy consumption, meaning the total amount of energy used by the building on an annual basis is equal to the amount of renewable energy generated by the site.

ירוק בבירת הנגב
New trees at the city of Be’er Sheva
(Photo: Haim Horenstein)

Furthermore, Be’er Sheva along with the “Green Trend” organization opened a “climate leadership” course in the city for the local public. The purpose of the course is to educate the local residents on how best to tackle the climate crisis.

The results of the policies implemented so far can already be seen. This month, the city held a conference where local residents launched their own recycling network, while many community gardens have been boosted by more vegetation. “The climate crisis is a significant threat, it causes weather changes, damages the ecosystem, and harms human health and well-being,” said Danilovich.

The mayor added that the municipality will work to establish city policies to tackle the climate crisis that would include planning and management, and implementation of urban projects.