Haifa Mayor Blocks Factories in Pollution War

YERUSHALAYIM -

A report on the high incidence of cancer in the Haifa area blamed on air pollution has led mayor Yona Yahav to deny suppliers access to area petrochemical plants.

“The Israeli government has declared war on a third of the people of this country,” declared Yahav on Sunday morning. “Israel cannot abandon the health of the residents of the bay and operate as if ‘all is well.’”

“All the entrances to the petrochemicals works have been blocked,” Yahav said, adding “We are issuing revocations of licenses to all the plants, and we shall halt the supply of fuels and ammonia in Israel.”

Last week, Health Ministry officials said they had found a causal link between air pollution and cancer in the Haifa Bay region.

Data showed that over a 10-year period, about 780 of the 4,860 cancer cases found in the region were probably caused by exposure to air pollution. Of the 60 cancer cases involving children from ages 0 to 14, about 30 were thought to be linked to air pollution.

On Sunday, Yahav ordered 10 municipal trucks to block the entrances to Israel Oil Refineries complex and the Haifa port’s chemicals terminal.

The Health Ministry sought to downplay the issue. A spokeswoman said that there were exaggerated media reports on cancer in children and higher pollution in Haifa. Only a small number of conflicting studies have been conducted and more research is needed to determine causes, she said.

Yahav himself came under fire for his handling of the problem.

Environmental activist Hanna Kuperman said in response to Yahav’s statement, “If he really wanted to stop what’s happening, he should have gone to the National Planning Council and stopped the plans to expand Oil Refineries, and other plans.”

Inbar Shaked-Daliot, spokesperson for the Green Course environmental organization, said on Sunday that “the authorities — the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of the Environment, and the Haifa municipality — fail to take responsibility … let them apply the lessons on the ground, remove the environmental hazard known as Oil Refineries from Haifa, and stop the expansion plans and the construction of the new fuels port.”

Police disallow blocking or obstructing traffic anywhere in the district, without authorization.