Twelve kilometers to the south of Beer-Sheva is the Ramat Hovav Industrial Park (“Ramat Hovav”). Designated in the mid-1990s as one of the two official Industrial Municipalities in Israel, Ramat Hovav hosts 19 chemical factories thus concentrating over half of Israel’s chemical plants on its 6,000 acres. Nine of these chemical factories deal directly with hazardous material and utilize over 1,000 acres for evaporation pools which pollute the air and have allowed chemicals to leach into the soil and water. The Industrial Zone also hosts the National Site for Treatment of Hazardous Waste -the only approved center for hazardous waste in the country. Over the past 20 years of the Industrial Zone’s existence, it has become one of the most polluted and polluting sites in the country, posing a real threat to its immediate human and natural environments. The Chemical area has a direct impact on the health and well being of the 400,000 residents in North and Central Negev (of which over 230,000 live within a 20 km radius.)
Ramat Hovav is an illustration of the fact that the Negev has become the dumping ground of the Country’s most polluting activities: hazardous, chemical, and solid waste to name but a few. Not only is it the home of these pollutants, the authorities have demonstrated a singular lack of appropriate treatment.
In order to succeed where previous efforts have failed, it is necessary to confront the problem from multiple fronts. In October 2002, SDN mounted a vigorous and comprehensive campaign that focuses on the major issues of pollution, awareness of its impact and a willingness and ability to mitigate it. Such a campaign will strengthen the environmental movement and enhance it with the tools and the social and moral force required bringing about a different reality.
Current Activities & Accomplishments
SDN is working closely with the Parliament, Government Administration and local municipalities to initiate debates and discussion groups within its various committees. In the last 8 months of the new government, we have exposed the Ramat Hovav problems to 50% of the ministers and 30% of the Knesset members. As a result of our efforts
The Administration Comptroller is actively investigating the actions of Ramat Hovav and the regional and national environmental offices.
2. The Environment & Interior Committee agreed to:
1. Produce a procedure to enforce the existing laws that each factory to treat their chemical waste, including a schedule to stop the wastewater stream from entering the evaporation pools by 2005.
2. Build professionally equipped and strategically situated pollution monitoring stations within populated areas.
3. Mandate that the Industrial Municipality only be allowed to receive the amount of hazardous sewage it can process. (Currently they can only treat 25% of what they receive.)
4. Change the structure of Ramat Hovav Board of Directors to include citizens and concerned public interest groups. The Committee is currently in the process of ratifying this law.
Public Involvement and Outreach
SDN is continually working to educate and involve the public in Ramat Hovav. Over the past year, we have launched a massive communications campaign in the media, produced lectures for professional community groups, universities, public forums and at children schools, and organized demonstrations and frequent discussions with community leaders.
If you would like to become involved with any of these activities, please contact us.
In the last few years the Negev citizens have found it more and more difficult to live in close proximity to Ramat Hovav. The evaporation pools are emitting an overwhelming smell into the area (especially at night), which is the cause of a great discomfort among the populace. The citizens have appealed to the municipality numerous times to rectify the situation, but nothing has been done – in fact the smell has been growing.
On the recommendation of 2 advocates offices, SDN has decided to spear-head a legal suit against the Ramat Hovav Industrial Municipality, the Ministry of the Environment, and the industries under regulation 29 for civilian law, 1984.
Through this legal action SDN aims to
Pressure the municipality, the industries, and the Ministry of Environment to stop dumping the sewage into the evaporation pools and to find solutions that will not cause discomfort or health risk to the Negev communities
Collect compensation for the inhabitants for the many years of suffering.
SDN and its legal partners will work closely with the Neighborhood committees and representatives to gather thousands of signatures to bring the appeal to court
Industry and Community Communication
SDN initiated Community Advisory Panels (CAPs) with 2 of the biggest polluters in Ramat Hovav, the Bromine Factory and the Organic Hazardous Material Incinerator, to act as public watchdog groups under the “Responsible Care” program. “Responsible Care”, is an internationally recognized program which enables the public to participate with the management inside the factories to act as an internal regulatory force. "Responsible Care" works in the hopes that the factory, under public pressure, will take greater environmental responsibility for its actions, will allow for a clear and fluent transference of information and will allow for open discussions of problems and solutions.
Public Committee Participation
SDN is an active participant in a variety of public committees involved in Ramat Hovav, such as the Air Quality Committee. The Organization has also initiated a public committee to work with the management of the hazardous site to gather and distribute information and to discuss the problems and possible solutions to Ramat Hovav.
SDN has also joined the Regional Housing & Development committee in order to have an official voice in any new developments of the area. We have actively opposed the expansion of the National Hazardous Waste Site and have suggested that the Environmental Minister research a more appropriate site in Israel such as in the North where a considerable portion of hazardous waste is produced.
Research & Data
SDN is in the continual process of collecting the most recent and accurate data. We are currently writing a policy paper with can serve as a background and platform for action in Ramat Hovav.
SDN has contracted a medical professional to examine the chemicals found in the Ramat Hovav ecosystem. She is currently working to produce a toxicology report that will serve as the basis of a report on the cumulative impact and effect on the human body.
Please Join Us in the fight to improve your environment!