As industrialized cities go, Haifa doesn’t fare too badly when it comes to air pollution – and in fact, according to the Environment Ministry, the air quality in Haifa’s industrial areas is far better than in areas of European cities with similar industrial bases.
“Measurement stations recording the levels of nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide in Haifa indicate that the level of these pollutants in the skies over the Haifa area is about half the level of these pollutants in comparable European cities,” a Ministry study released last week said.
With oil refineries, chemical factories, and other heavy industry, Haifa has long been considered the most polluted city in Israel. For decades, the Kishon River was a toxic waste dump in which almost no aquatic life was able to thrive (it has since been cleaned up and restored as a living waterway), and many of the industrial plants in the city were sued, fined, and even prosecuted for dumping waste into the Mediterranean.
But when it comes to air pollution, the many smokestacks spewing off emissions in Haifa and other industrialized cities are not the chief cause of dirty air; according to the Ministry, it’s pollutants from vehicle emissions that are the chief culprit, “and especially diesel vehicles,” the report said. New regulations and cleaner-burning vehicles, along with a significant reduction in pollutants from industry, have reduced pollution significantly in recent years.
Data from other cities showed that there were occasional, specific periods and places where pollution was over the legal limits. Among the places where air pollution was often over legal limits was in the industrial zone of Ashdod, several areas of central Tel Aviv, and the Shmuel Hanavi neighborhood in Yerushalayim.