Regional Council: Charish ‘Becoming Unlivable’ Due to Air Pollution

YERUSHALAYIM -
Construction of new residential buildings in the northern Israeli city of Harish, for religious and secular occupants. (Lior Mizrahi/Flash90)
Construction of new residential buildings in the northern city of Charish. (Lior Mizrahi/Flash90)

Air quality measurement stations in Wadi Ara and near the Green Line do not indicate a reduction in air quality due to the production of coal by factories in Palestinian Authority-controlled areas of Yehudah and Shomron, the Environment Ministry said. The measurement stations were set up in March after officials responded to complaints by residents of Charish and other towns in the area that pollution levels were very high as a result of the factories’ activities.

Officials in local authorities dispute the Ministry’s findings. A social media group, which now has thousands of members, was established to collect anecdotal evidence of the pollution, and it is rife with stories and complaints by residents of the Wadi Ara area of bad smells, clouds of smoke, and other evidence of pollution. “In the month I have lived here, I have spent two weeks dealing with strong odors,” wrote one member of the group. “For various reasons officials put forth different excuses, like the smell is being generated by campfires or forest fires and the like. The truth is far different, and the air here is terrible, especially in the early morning hours.”

Ilan Sadeh, head of the Menashe Regional Council, said metaphorically, that there was ‘too much smoke to deny the fire’. “The testimony of so many residents is evidence that the measurements by the Environment Ministry are not accurate,” he said. “The city is spending billions to develop Charish as a city, but the air here is harmful to residents, and unless something is done, that investment will become worthless.”

The Environment Ministry said in a statement that in general it sees the coal factories as an environmental hazard, and that it is working with the government to reduce their impact on residents.