Fluvial system of Israel
Rehabilitation of the rivers of Israel
Fluvial system of Israel
With the exception of the top Jordan and his tributaries, the destination of the rivers of Israel is lugubrious long ago: a slow and painful death. Be already like a result of effluent, municipal served waters, excessive pumping or general abuse, the rivers or they have dried off or have turned into conduits of served waters. Yarkón de Tel Aviv, Kishón de Haifa, the Lajish in Ashdod, Alexander of Emek Jéfer, Ayalón de Lod, the Sorek of Jerusalem - these and other rivers endure the same illness: contamination.
The search of a remedy that it transforms to the rivers of the country, of channels of death into life sources, is not new. For years the Authority for the Protection of the Nature and National parks, the Department of Environmental quality and the water Commissioner they have supervised the sick watercourses of Israel assembling information on the water quality, identifying contamination sources and compiling information about the water flow, the sources, the flora and the fauna. Simultaneously, efforts and resources were invested in the treatment of served waters, the recycling of effluent in the agriculture and the restoration of groundwaters. In the places in which it was possible, cleanliness campaigns began and the banks developed for recreational intentions, especially in congested central region of the country.
These and other individual efforts culminated with the establishment of the National government of Rivers in November, 1993. Initiated and headed by the Department of Environmental quality and the Jewish National Fund, the ANR serves like coordinating entity between the numerous organisms who devote themselves to the rivers in Israel, and supervises the preservation and renewal of natural and historical places along the margins of the rivers. It includes to representatives of the Departments of the Interior, of Tourism and of Agriculture, of the water Commissioner, of the Department of Environmental quality, the Authority for the Protection of the Nature and National parks and the adjacent local authorities to the rivers.
The ANR fulfills the following targets:
rehabilitation of the rivers of the country by means of the cleaning and the restoration of the quantity and water quality;
preservation and rehabilitation of the scenery, the ecosystems and the flora and fauna in the rivers and his basins;
development of the rivers taking as basic the existing and potential values of nature and scenery with intentions of recreation, tourism, education and investigation;
promotion of the capacity of the rivers of serving like drainage channels to avoid floods. For the purpose of reaching the above mentioned goals, the ANR has committed itself to:
to formulate a national politics integrated for the protection and development of the rivers of Israel, taking in consideration the needs of the consumer and the singular characteristics of every river;
to classify the rehabilitation of the rivers of Israel in accordance with a priorities scale;
to stimulate the establishment of regional authorities and administrations of rivers for the principal rivers of Israel, and to transfer the responsibility of the rehabilitation and administration of the rivers to these entities;
to promote, to guide and to be present at local and municipal entities in the adoption of measurements that could help to reach the targets of the ANR;
to obtain and to compile information for the purpose of establishing a database on natural resources, places and sceneries in the rivers;
to formulate and to supervise the implementation of professional criteria for the rivers rehabilitation;
catalizar the planning and the project implementation of rehabilitation of rivers and of development of panoramic parks and footpaths to the shore of the rivers in accordance with criteria and priorities established;
to stimulate the conscience and public participation in the rehabilitation of rivers and the landscape protection.
The ANR has already reached some achievements. It has formulated a model for the rivers rehabilitation and has established priorities criteria with the same end (p. ej. magnitude of the damage, tourist and recreational potential, natural resources and of scenery, disposition of grounds and waters, viability and disposition of financing). Also, they have begun or completed ecological and environmental studies of most of the rivers designated for a priority share. Inside the frame of these studies, information meets on sources of water and of contamination along the river (including plans to solve problems of pollution), water quality (supervision physical chemistry and hydrobiology), ground, flora and fauna (including the cartography of rare or protected species and singular ecosystems), places of historical and archaeological interest, places with panoramic conference, footpaths for walkers, land uses and environmental damages (like quarries and garbage dumps). The information is summed up then and mappings to serve like base of evaluation of the potential of rehabilitation of every river.
The studies and evaluations of scenery provide to the managers of the planning enough background information to assure that the development should not destroy the ecosystem, the wild life and the characteristics of the scenery of the river. The incorporation of considerations as the sensibility and vulnerability, or their some sections, has to the development of the rivers the purpose of helping to assure the bíodiversidad and the preservation of the natural conference. This way, in the areas where the specific natural resources can turn threatened irreversibly by the development, the conservation of the same ones is proposed, or a minimal development. In less sensitive places, the development can be more intense. In addition to essential considerations as the quality and quantity of the water, the planning process tries to award major protrusion to the river inside the scenery, designate areas for the recreation and the tourism and create footpaths along the rivers with signs that indicate to the excursionists the existence of significant or picturesque places along the way. Once completed, the main plan for the rehabilitation of the river presents the commission of excellent planning to itself for his approval.
The target of the ANR is to entrust the work itself of restoration to local entities serving like catalyst, coordinator and professional guide. For such a reason, important efforts have been invested in the establishment of regional administrations of rivers, parallel in his goals and composition to the ANR, but with a local approach. The regional administration is formed by representatives of the local authorities, drainage authorities, excellent regional organizations, representatives of ecological entities and the ANR.
Up to the date regional administrations have been established for the following rivers: Lajish, Zipori, Ayalón, Taninim, Jedera, Alexander, Sorek, Jarod, Naamán, Besor, Beer Sheva and the Low and South Jordan. These administrations join the already existing ones for the rivers Yarkón and Kishón. They have been prepared or the main plans are in preparation process for these rivers and parks have developed about the rivers Lajish, Jarod, Jedera, Kishón, Alexander and Taninim.
The Department of Environmental quality has prepared a database computarizada on contamination sources in some of these rivers. The polluters of the above mentioned rivers are subject to a strict examination and supervision that is translated in warnings, subpoenas and legal action. In the last three years the law has been applied to 200 polluters; tens investigations have begun and 25 condemnations have been expressed.
The program of rehabilitation of rivers of Israel has received an impulse in the frame of the program LIFE of the European Union that offers assistance to environmental projects. One of the projects that are being financed at present is the rivers rehabilitation. The project tries to help to the Department of Environmental quality to prepare a national plan comprehensivo for the restoration of the rivers of the coastal region of Israel. This will include a study of the principal sources of contamination and studies of the ecological, natural and cultural resources along the rivers, as well as the determination of rules of the quality and quantity of water needed for the restoration of the currents, specific main plans for the rivers and economic justification for the rehabilitation.
The Rio Yarkón
Winding for the area more densely filled with the country, the river Yarkón - the second river of the country in length after the Jordan - has been a central target of the efforts of rehabilitation during more than one decade and a half. With an extension of approximately 28 kilometers from Tel Afek, close to Rosh Haayin, up to the sea, it flows for area under jurisdiction of diverse local authorities
The deterioration of the river Yarkón began in 1955 when his waters turned aside for the tubes of the National Aqueduct to provide with irrigation the Néguev. After the drinking water was replaced by served waters, the habitats and the flora were destroyed and fauna they disappeared.
The recognition of the urgent need to rehabilitate the Yarkón culminated in 1988 in the establishment of the Authority of the Rio Yarkón - the first effort coordinated in Israel to deal with the rehabilitation of a river. This entity devotes itself to revitalize the river and develop different segments making it adapted for the recreation and the recreation, including the navigation, the fishing and the swimming. There have been extracted hundreds of tons of garbage of the river to restore his original depth and to facilitate the natural current. His banks were reinforced and raised, the bed was extended, footpaths were created to walk and to ride bicycle, there selected trees and raleó the vegetation. Dikes were rehabilitated and there were established areas of picnic and of fishing. The principal efforts devote themselves to the supervision and the pest control based on inoffensive methods of control for the environment.
To both ends of the river parks exist. Current arrives, recently inaugurated Mekorot Hayarkón ("Sources of the Yarkón") is provided with places of historical interest, areas of picnic, games, wharves of fishing and vegetation with accesses for the visitors. In this segment of the river the water is clear and pure and there abound the vegetation and the fish. Following the crowd, the Park Yarkón or Ganéi Yehoshúa serves as "lung" for about two million inhabitants of the metropolitan region of Dan.
The central part of the Yarkón is the most problematic. Nevertheless, also here a progress is evident. The opening of the plant of treatment of the waters made use of Kfar Sava - Hod Hasharón in 1996 and of Ramat Hasharón in 1999 they put term to the spilled one to the river of approximately 25.000 cubic meters of effluent per day from the adjacent localities. All the effluent ones are assined to the irrigation, and need surpluses from him to expire with the estándars of the Department of Environmental quality regarding the discharge of the river.
Enormous efforts are invested in the study of the hydrology of the river, the definition of the quality and quantity of required water and the investigation of the natural processes, with the target to determine the capacity of transport and the sensibility of development of every segment of the river, in individual form and like part of the global ecosystem. Also, the river Yarkón has been chosen like model for an educational program at national level on the rehabilitation of the rivers. In his bank there has been established a center of study and investigation.
The Rio Jarod
The river Jarod, whose basin comprises more than 190 square kilometers, passes for the vales of Jezreel and Beit Sheán towards the river Jordan. It is 32 kilometers long and it is provided with several elements that unite to make it rich in economic and tourist potential: his geographical place in the crossing of important highways and along with the Jordanian border, his singular scenery, his picturesque springs and swimming pools and the numerous historical places that mark it out. But has the inherent potential of the river been secret for the serious contamination proceeding from the desag? it is domestic and industrial, the agricultural drainage and the water of the sinks of fish.
The establishment of a regional administration of the river led to the achievement of a wide ecological study, to the preparation of a main plan and to the promotion of plans detailed for the rehabilitation of different sections of the river and the development of parks to his shores. The rehabilitation project integrates a wide elements variety, including a progress in the drainage, preservation of resources of scenery, ecological rehabilitation, I develop for the recreation and the tourism, restoration of places of historical and archaeological interest, and treatment of served waters.
Since the rehabilitation process began in 1994, several sections of the river have been cleaned and a recreational park has been done; there was restored a bridge that Mameluke dates back to the period and there has been completed the first stage of the Park Beit Sheán. There has been prepared also an informative bundle that includes walks suggestions, in addition to a presentation in video that describes the past, present and future of the river.
There is offered special attention to the search of solutions to the serious problems of industrial and municipal served waters that they affect to the river, which levels of contamination and salinity increase gradually current below coming to his summit in the region of Beit Sheán. Although solutions still have not been comprehensivas for all the problems, already there are implemented partial solutions destined to limit the spilled one of harmful substances to the river. They are estableciento plants of treatment of waters served for several kibutzim and moshavim of the region and the efforts to apply the law concentrate on the effluent industrialists, especially the originated ones from the textile and food industries of the area.
The Rio Alexander
The river Alexander, one of the longest in the center of Israel, is another good example of the progress of the rehabilitation of the rivers. His 32 kilometers flow in the south part of the National park Rio Alexander, located at only an hour of trip for most of the inhabitants of the country. The wide open spaces that still stay along his river bed, in the middle of densely inhabited central area of Israel, offer an opportunity without parallel for the recreation, the recreation and the protection of the nature. But although approximately 300.000 persons live to nearly seven kilometers of the river, few ones enjoy his potential attractions. The reason is, once again, the contamination.
During the last 40 years, approximately 25 different pollutants have been spilled to the river, including substances of waste proceeding from the particular consumption and from the industry. The continuous aggression of the pollutants has affected adversely to the water quality, has destroyed the natural scenery and has done ravages in the ecosystem. A study of 1973 about the vegetation of the river and the impact of the contamination in the distribution and composition of the species revealed that of 81 species of vegetation that one day bloomed along Alexander and his tributaries, 18 had disappeared; another 9 species have disappeared from the decade of 1970.
Although in the last years diverse initiatives were adopted to restore the river, newly in 1995 an intensive rehabilitation program began and comprehensivo. An effective coordination, cooperation and good will, already they have allowed to carry out a real progress that includes a study ecoambiental and a global main plan. There have been formulated recommendations related to the options of conservation and development along the river, with the requisites of supervision and with the establishment of microreservations that serve as refuge for the flora and the fauna especially during epochs of intensive tourism. There is offered special attention to the soft turtle of the Nile (Trionyx triunguis) and to the local preservation where it is reproduced. With the exception of the river Alexander, this rare protected species has disappeared of the coastal stripe of Israel like result of the deterioration of the water quality, and of his scarcity. In 1999 there began a project of demonstration that implies the panoramic, ecological restoration and of drainage of a stripe 750 meters model along the river. It is provided with a park, picturesque footpaths to walk, abundant vegetation and, in the future, it will have firstly suspension bridge of Israel that will allow to the public to gain access and contemplate the scenery.
The success of the project of rehabilitation of the river Alexander, as that of most of other rivers qualified for priority treatment, will depend on the success of the treatment of the waters served in the region. The new plant of the city of Netania, and the facilities for the treatment of effluent and garbage in the industrial plants of Emek Jéfer can produce the awaited improvement. Even more, there has initiated a collaboration process between the chief of the Regional Council Emek Jéfer and the governor of Tulle Karem in the Authority Palestine, which takes as an object to construct a joint plant of purification of served waters and the joint use of waters treated for agricultural ends.
The Rio Lajish
The river Lajish, an ancient point of reference to merchants, is another enclave destined for the rehabilitation. At least three of 70 kilometers of the river, which runs to the feet of the Mount Hebrón and runs for Kiriat Gat and Ashdod before ending in the sea, have transformed, of being a sewerage channel, in a source of pleasure and recreation. The joint project, initiated in 1991 by the Jewish National Fund, the Municipality of Ashdod, the Electrical Corporation of Israel and the Department of Environmental quality, led to the opening in 1996 of the Park Lajish-Ashdod. The park in the city of Ashdod, along the banks of the river, comprises green areas, a 2,5 kilometers walk, pergolas, points of observation and areas of picinic.
At present the efforts concentrate on the preparation of a main plan for the rehabilitation of the river Lajish and his basin, approximately 1000 km2. In the frame of this plan numerous studies have been prepared on nature, scenery and culture, water, tourism, transport and land uses. There was implemented successfully a model of stabilization of the shore of the river using different types of vegetation that integrate well into the scenery.
The Rio Kishón
Perhaps the biggest challenge that confronts the rehabilitation of the rivers is the one that the Kishón presents, known for being the river most contaminated with Israel. The Kishón, with his 70 kilometers long, drains a surface of 1.100 square kilometers. He is born in the Vale of Jezreel and ends to the sea in Haifa. Since it runs for the principal industrial center of the country, the river has turned into receptacle of poisonous pollutants originated from the refineries of oil, the petrochemical industries and the plants of pesticides of Haifa, of plants of treatment of served waters and agricultural garbage. The analyses that have been realized of the sediments of the river have showed high concentrations of heavy metals, caused in the effluent industrialists who have been thrown to the river during decades, and which at a later stage it seems that they affected the health of the naval commands that were training in the above mentioned waters.
The state of deterioration of the Rio Kishón was debated for the first time in the Knéset in 1978. Although called to a project of rehabilitation and to the application of strict measurements to stop the discharge of pollutant substances to the river they can go back to this year, since then significant progresses have not been realized. The efforts have centred on increasing principally the supervision, the examination and the law enforcement, and on compiling information updated about discharges of effluent. In the last years superficial tunnels were dug along the shores of the river that were covered with polyethene plates sealed to deposit in them temporariamente big quantities of sediments extracted from the river, until a permanent solution is for the sediments treatment. Current arrives, before the Kishón between in the Haifa industrial area, a three kilometers stripe has transformed in a beautiful place. Here, in the area of Kiriat Tivón, which nests between the vales of Jezreel and Zevulún, a careless section of the river has turned into a public park.
Due to the complexity of the process of rehabilitation, an essential previous requisite is a clearer comprehension of the ecosystem of the river Kishón and the Haifa bay. With such an intention, the Regional Environmental Association of Haifa in cooperation with the Department of Environmental quality initiated an investigation on the capacity of dragging of the bay of Haifa and of the river Kishón. The study, which was financed by the Bank of Investments European and implemented by a consortium of Israeli and Danish companies, developed an approach integrativo of the discharge of effluent in the area that takes into consideration not only the quantity and quality of the effluent industrialists and of sewerage, but also the destination of the above mentioned pollutants in the marine environment. Being based on the above mentioned study, new norms developed for the discharge of industrial served and effluent waters in the area of the bay of Haifa.
Can these efforts guarantee the rehabilitation of severely contaminated Kishón? The best hope is based on the Authority of the Rio Kishón created in 1994. This authority estatutoria devotes itself to rehabilitate the river and to transform it into a regional attraction. The rehabilitation scheme speaks of suspending all the discharges of served waters, extraction and treatment of the sediments, progress of the scenery to the shores of the river, protection of floods and equipment of recreational, sports and tourist facilities. The first park in the mouth of the Kishón was inaugurated in 2001 along with a fishermen's bay. In the future additional sections will join to form finally the only park along the whole course of the river. Till now, a global ecological study has been completed on the Kishón and a main plan. The plant of treatment of served waters of Haifa has been improved and an interdepartmental commission to determine the water quality and to establish norms of the discharge of effluent presented his recommendations. Also, plans have been planned to stop the fearlessness of efleuntes industrialists to the river up to ends of 2001. It is of hoping that the efforts of the past should get together with the efforts of the present to provide also to this river a new life.
Considerations on the water quality
In spite of the advance of last years, the success of the program of rehabilitation of rivers depends on the solutions implementation to the emanations quantity in Israel, which it increases constantly. The increasing urban development and the population density along the whole coastal region of Israel, from Haifa to Ashkelón, has provoked an increase of the effluent ones that overcomes the quantity needed in the region for his recycling with agricultural ends.
There are considered to be diverse options for the discharge and use of effluent in sure form for the environment. One of them is the controlled discharge of effluent of high quality to the rivers inside the frame of the program of rehabilitation of the above mentioned.
Until 1991, the entities dedicated to the rehabilitation of rivers were sure that the previous requisites for the above mentioned process were consisting of eliminating all the served waters and contributing only fresh water. Nevertheless, successive years of drought demonstrated that the water scarcity threatens to dry the rivers of Israel if other means are not adopted to replace or to complement the sweet water supply. Successive years of pumping have irritated the poor situation of the rivers of Israel. The water scarcity has dried the natural water sources reducing or suspending the current, diminishing his quality and affecting adversely to the ecosystem.
After a comprehensiva review of the Department of Environmental quality, the politics that in an epoch any type was prohibiting of spilled of residual liquids to the rivers independently of his quality, is being replaced by a politics that allows the evacuation in the beds of the rivers of effluent of high quality when he does not get ready of fresh water. This influence of effluent highly treated is destined to assure the watercourse, the subsistence of the ecosystems and the development of recreational activities and of recreation. On the other hand, the above mentioned influence is subject to strict control measurements that prohíben any type of waste that threatens to generate esthetic or sanitary damages, spoil the quality of the groundwaters, contaminate the beaches near to the mouth or make proliferate the mosquitoes. In any case, the discharge of of effluent in sections of rivers destined to bath or fishing is prohibited.
A look forward
The good political will, the large-scale cooperation and the disposition of funds have helped to do a substantial progress in several of the rivers of Israel. Local administrations of rivers have been established, studies have been completed about the ecosystems, the planning has begun comprehensivo and detailed and the rehabilitation work has begun. In the rivers Taninim, Naamán and Ayalón has established jointly with the water Commissioner a procedure to integrate the considerations of rehabilitation of the river in the drainage projects.
The approach of the stick and the carrot has driven to important advances in the establishment or the expansion of plants of treatment of waters served in the whole country. Thanks to a legal decision, the cities of Lod and Ramle suspended the spilled one of his sewerages to the river Ayalón and they have initiated the arrangements to create a plant model of treatment of waters served in the region. The river Sorek, seriously contaminated and submitted to the spilled one of approximately 0 million cubic meters per year of wastes water proceeding from the sewerage of Jerusalem, will transform again in a living river when there begins working the new plant of treatment of Jerusalem. One hopes that the starting of the plant of treatment of Jedera should achieve an important progress in the rehabilitation of the river Jedera. And the list continues.
The rehabilitation of the rivers of Israel is already not any more a sleep. With a correct dose of investigation, planning and resource allocation, the sick rivers of the country will be able to be recovered and rehabilitated reaching his ancient glory.
Source: MFA - Foreign Office of Israel