On Wednesday, December 7, 2011, Adam Teva V'Din presented Israel's first national conference on environmental justice. Our partners were the City of Beersheba and the Environmental Protection Ministry. It was a seminal event. We chose to conduct Israel's first national environmental justice conference in partnership with the City of Beersheba to make the point that places in the periphery are as important as those in the central region, and to showcase Beersheba's recent urban development as the capital of the Negev, under the leadership of Mayor Rubik Danilovitch.
Over 300 participants spent the day debating how best Israel can insure environmental justice, particularly for under-served communities in the south.
Keynote speaker was the director of the State Comptroller's office who addressed the important of public participation in decision-making. He spoke at length about the overlapping of environmental, social and distributive justice, and referred to Adam Teva V'Din's contribution to policy changes now under way in regard to how Israel values natural resources like Dead Sea minerals and offshore natural gas discoveries.
Sharing their stories
The highlight of the day was when community activists shared their stories. Residents of Arad told of their struggle against plans to expand phosphate mining near their homes despite objections raised by the Health Ministry.
A resident of Ksaifeh, a recognized Bedouin town, brought tears to the audience's eyes when he told of the joy his neighbors expressed when Adam Teva V'Din's legal action led to completion of a sewage processing facility delayed for 11 years due to bureaucratic fumbling.
The grassroots activist group, Achla, represented by Ronny Rom, told how Ramat Hasharon residents learned of the extent of contamination at the former military industries site in the town. He shared his story of how concerned citizens organized as a group to protest new building plans going forward until environmental risk surveys are complete - and the site remediated was inspirational.
The 2nd annual EBeersheba Environmental Justice Conference is planned for mid-November 2012.