In February 2021 an ecological disaster occurred the length of Israel’s Mediterranean coast. Hundreds of tons of tar washed up on a major stretch (160-kilometres/99 miles) following a heavy storm and unusually high waves. Clean-up operations were conducted by some 5,000 public volunteers, in the absence of a concerted government response.
The disaster catalyzed demands for legislation providing for an orderly and effective clean-up strategy. Earlier this year, we presented to the 24th Knesset’s Legislative Committee two sets of recommendations for strengthening the draft government bill on Preparedness & Response to Oil Pollution Spills & Incidents in the Marine & Coastal Environments. The bill addresses both ongoing pollution of the marine and coastal environments by offshore gas industries and other installations, as well as spills from marine vessels.
We base our recommendations on our own experience in drafting marine legislation and on three years’ partnership on developing Israel’s Integrated Coastal Zone Management program.
We again drew the Legislative Committee’s attentions to the bill, which in our professional opinion, imposes central responsibility for response to oil spills and related on coastal municipalities. The bill’s authors assume that all coastal municipalities have equitable fiscal and human resources to develop a response program, train a volunteer-based active response team, and coordinate actions with other authorities, of a standard that meets national and EU standards, policies and practices.
The appropriate framework, in our opinion, would be to assign the responsibility to the Ministry of Environmental Protection which will build a strategic national response to protect equally all coastal and beach areas. This would include training of an expert force, financing of necessary infrastructure and equipment, etc., to meet international criteria.