Assessment of the Environmental Damage Caused by the War in the North, by Dr. Yeshayahu Brauer, 8.27.06

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State of Israel

Ministry of the Environment

The Chief Scientist, Dr. Yeshayahu Brauer

27 August 2006

Assessment of the Environmental Damage Caused by the War in the North

1. Fires in Forests and Open Areas

Planted forests (JNF) – During the war, as a result of about 400 fires caused by missiles, more than 12,000 dunams of planted forests went up in flames. Of this total, about 7,000 dunams were on the Naftali mountain ridge (about 70% of the forest) and 2,000 dunams were in the Biria forest near Tzfat. The direct fire fighting costs exceeded NIS 20 million (use of fire fighting aircraft and fire retarding materials).

Natural forests and open areas – A total of about 50 fires caused by the war were dealt with in nature reservations and national parks. About 40,000 dunams were burned, of which about 14,000 dunams were in areas of nature reserves and national parks. Of these, about 5,500 dunams were in the Golan Heights, about 9,000 dunams in Northern Galilee (in the Mount Miron fire about 1,200 dunams were burned, representing about 15% of the area of the forest) and 500 dunams in Lower Galilee. The damage was mainly to Mediterranean groves and undergrowth.

During the fires numerous remains were found of animals harmed by the fires, mainly reptiles, birds, and young mammals.

The air temperature and the large area in which the fires took place caused fires of a high intensity. The damage caused to nature increased with the size of the burned area, since the self restoration is slower and there is no nearby stock of organisms to fill the lack.

The damage was to a large spectrum of living things, from plants damaged directly, invertebrates, lichen, snails, reptiles, birds (great damage to fledglings that could not yet fly and flee from the fire), mammals’ dens, young deer, and sometimes even adult mammals. The damage was systemic to the entire food chain.

The damage to flora, in both the short and long term, is the most conspicuous. The burned forests will recover slowly, and until this happens dense undergrowth will replace the adult forest. There will be a change to the composition of the vegetation, and the hairy cassia and kinds of rockrose will dominate the scene, at the expense of varied kinds of undergrowth. In the burned areas the chances increase of domination by invasive species, such as the blue acacia.

In the park forests, where trees are spread apart, there will be partial damage to flora, mainly to shoots. In the undergrowth the damage to flora is relatively not great.

Physical damage – Roads made for the purpose of fire fighting. Such roads were made in the Hulah Reservation. After the fire there will be soil erosion in the first winter, until a layer of undergrowth covers the area.

(Source of information: Nature Reserves and Parks Authority, JNF)

2. Building Waste Material

According to the estimates of the Ministry of Building and Housing, and of Property Tax, about 12,000 buildings were damaged, about 400 of which were public buildings, According to the estimate of the Prime Minister’s Office, about 2,000 buildings/ apartments were totally destroyed.

Quantity of waste material for burial/ shredding

Two estimates exist regarding the quantity of building waste material produced:

1) A minimal estimate of about 100,000 tons. These estimate is based on the said figure of 2,000 apartments, having an average area of 100 m2/apartment, and totaling 200,000 m2, and an average quantity of 50 tons waste material per 100 m2 of apartment (according to research by the National Building Institute, the Technion, 2004).

2) A maximum estimate of 700,000 tons. These estimate is based on the said figure of 2,000 apartments, having an average area of 100 m2/apartment, and totaling 200,000 m2, and an average quantity of 3.5 tons waste material/m2 apartment (based on a survey of demolitions in the Ra’anana area conducted by the environmental unit, Ra’anana, 2006).

The estimated cost of burial (including handling) comes to about NIS 50/ton. The potential sites are Jamla in the Haifa region and Lagmon in the northern region.

The costs of shredding come to about NIS 30-65/ton.

On the assumption that 85% will be buried and 15% shredded, the cost of disposal is NIS 4.25 million for burial and NIS 0.9 million for shredding, based on the low estimate, or about NIS 30 million for burial and NIS 6.3 million for shredding for the high estimate.

(Source of information: The Solid Waste department)

3. Damage to Asbestos Buildings

As a result of the launching of missiles at Israel from Lebanese territory during the war, tens of buildings made of asbestos were damaged.

The destruction of a cement-asbestos building causes the release of asbestos fibers that were trapped in the material, and their dispersion in the air.

25 buildings made of cement-asbestos were damaged, including industrial, agricultural, and residential buildings. The overall area of the asbestos buildings damaged is about 20,000 m2. It should be remarked that the information is partial only. It is estimated that the damage is significantly greater than that known to us at this stage.

1) The results of sampling for testing the presence of asbestos fibers in buildings destroyed by hits by missiles on or near them indicated high concentrations of asbestos in the air. For example, in a bedroom in Moshav Tel Al, 2,300 asbestos fibers/m3 were measured.

2) Costs: The cost of professional treatment of every asbestos building damaged, including disposal of the waste material, pumping, burying the waste material, destroying contaminated equipment, etc., is estimated at tens of thousands of shekels.

4. Sewage

Tzfat WWTP – A direct hit on the sludge thickening plant, the measurement systems, the piping, and adjacent buildings. The thickening plant ceased operation.

Nahariya WWTP – this released during the period of hostilities:

1) To the sea: about 13,600 m3 (110 tons of dry material) of excess sludge (with a permit from the Ministry of the Environment. This was because of the inability to operate the sludge treatment plant in the absence of protection in the area).

2) To the atmosphere: about 70,000 m3 of biogas (with burning through the flame). Because of the war the construction of a bio-generator to exploit the gas for energy had not been completed.

Haifa WWTP – This released to the atmosphere (by burning) over the entire period of the war about 700,000 m3 of biogas, in accordance with the instructions of the Ministry of the Environment, in order to avoid the storage of explosive gas.

Carmiel WWTP – This released to the atmosphere over the entire period of the war (in accordance with the instructions of the Ministry of the Environment in order to prevent the storage of explosive gas):

1) By burning: about 80,000 m3 biogas.

2) Without burning: about 18,000 m3 biogas (of which about 65%, or 12,000 m3, was methane).

(Source of information: The Water and Rivers Department, Northern Region)

5. Dangerous materials

During the period of the war there was recorded damage to and leakage from containers of LPG (cooking gas), ammonia, Freon, pesticides, diesel fuel, and unidentified dangerous materials, as follows:

Material

Number of cases of damage

LPG

15

Ammonia

1

Freon

1

Diesel fuel

1

Pesticides

1

Unidentified

2

In no case was it necessary to evacuate residents because no high values of a pollutant in the air were measured.

(Source of information: Information Center)

6. Radiation and Noise

No damage was recorded to sources of radiation. The radiation department gave instructions not to perform radio graphical tests in the north during the war, thus preventing injury.

Naturally the war was accompanied by noise of high intensity. No measurements were made but numerous complaints appeared in the media from citizens who suffered greatly from the noise of shelling.

(Source of information: Noise and Radiation department)

7. Animals

About 8,000 dogs (out of 80,000 kept by their owners) in the north received treatment of some kind, in most cases in the street after it was decided to temporarily not enforce the rabies order. Some of them (500 to 700) were collected by societies and others by the local authorities.

Some tens of dogs died in the streets since they were not accessible for treatment (mainly in small towns or villages). A few died when tied up or caged, and were not reached in time.

(Source of information: Information Center/ Noah Society)

Assessment of the Environmental Damage Caused by the War in the North, by Dr. Yeshayahu Brauer, 8.27.06

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