Israel: Ain't got no water but my lawn is green : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

These people have to be kidding, right?

Councils: Torpedo watering ban By David Rudge

HAIFA (July 24) - The Union of Local Authorities has declared war on a proposed ban on the irrigation of public and private lawns during August and September - despite the water crisis.

ULA chairman Adi Eldar said the organization, which represents all municipalities and councils in the country, will do its utmost to torpedo the measures, aimed at saving up to 25 million cubic meters of fresh water.

Water Commissioner Shimon Tal, who drew up the regulations, responded by saying that mayors and council leaders must decide what is more important - having sufficient water for drinking, taking a shower, and cleaning homes, or keeping lawns green and petunias blooming.

His comments were echoed by National Infrastructure Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who on Sunday authorized the regulations, which have now to be approved by the Knesset Economics Committee before becoming law.

"Every citizen now has to decide on the best alternative - to dry up Lake Kinneret and make fresh water sources saline thereby damaging them for generations to come, or dry up lawns for two months," Lieberman said yesterday.

"We checked this and it was found that a ban on irrigation for two months would turn the grass yellow but it would not be destroyed, and that it would grow again afterwards," he said. "This is the minimal damage that can be caused to lawns. On the other hand it is imperative to conserve water.

"We have reached the point where everybody is prepared to save water at the expense of somebody else. The industrialists say industry is suffering and cannot afford to be harmed while hoteliers say there is no tourism and it is inconceivable to raise the price of water for the use of hotels."

"We have reached the moment of truth in which there are no good or better alternatives, but only bad and worse ones and for which everybody has to take individual responsibility," said Lieberman, who met with the mayors of Haifa and Tel Aviv last night in an effort to persuade them of the need for the cutbacks.

Officials in the Water Com-missioner's Office (WCO) stressed that fresh water quotas to farmers have been cut by 50 percent this year and that tens of thousands of dunams of orchards, field crops, and greenhouse produce are being destroyed as a result.

"The urban sector has done absolutely nothing to try to conserve water, despite being informed categorically of the severity of the situation in which there is simply insufficient water to meet all demands," said WCO spokeswoman Yael Shoham.

UAL spokesman Hilik Gold-stein responded by saying that that cutbacks in fresh water allocations to farmers were fictitious and that no savings had been made in the fields this year. Eldar went a step further, charging that the proposed measures were totally illogical and at best would save only 0.2% of the nation's water consumption.

The drying up of lawns, he said, would cause irreversible damage to green areas in towns and cities and cause damage running into millions of shekels as far as the local authorities are concerned.

Eldar charged that the measures approved by Lieberman are "populistic" and promulgate the "hysteria" prevalent among decision-makers over the water situation, which itself is the result of years of neglect by successive governments.

He said he supports conserving water, but that the first and harshest cutbacks should be directed at those who continue to farm water-guzzling plants, and not at destroying the landscape and harming the green environment. Eldar said that in any case the regulations would not be implemented by the public.

Unfortunately for Eldar, he did not receive support from the green organizations, including the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI), which lambasted the ULA for its short-sightedness.

SPNI said it is far more important to preserve fresh water sources for future generations than for short-term interests of keeping public parks looking green.

In fact, all of the organizations representing environmentalists, conservationists, and nature lovers are supporting the kind of cutbacks proposed under the new regulations. The irony is that the proposed regulations are to be enforced by local authority supervisors and members of the Environment Ministry's Green Police because the WCO has only 12 wardens of its own - all but four of them attached to the Lake Kinneret Authority.

The regulations would stipulate fines of up to NIS 9,600 for offenders who break the ban on watering public and private lawns during August and September. Officials in the WCO stressed that local authorities would have to enforce the regulations - or face the financial consequences themselves.

-- Martin Thompson (, July 23, 2001

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