Israel have been plagued for years by the presence of asbestos, a known carcinogen, in many buildings. Dangerous friable asbestos waste was extensively used in roads, sidewalks and other infrastrucure throughout the Western Galilee and Nahariya in particular, and still poses a threat to human health.
We have worked to rid Israel of asbestos for nearly a decade. In 2008, together with our its community partner, the Association for Quality of Life & Environment in Nahariya ('AQLEN'), we filed a lawsuit that led the Ministry for Environmental Protection to set up a clean-up authority with a significant budget allocation for implementing an extensive clean-up program.
Our intervention also spurred the Ministry to draft the Prevention of Asbestos Hazards bill which was passed into law in March 2011. Environment Protection Minister Gilad Erdan was justifiably proud of getting this "life-saving" bill through the Knesset. We submitted 15 specific clauses in the bill and worked closely with the Environment Ministry in advancing the final version. The law empowers the Environment Ministry not only to ban new use of asbestos but to reduce and prevent public exposure to asbestos hazards by an intensive clean-up of friable asbestos as well as increased oversight and enforcement.
Keren Halperin-Museri, IUED's environmental justice attorney points out:
"We urged lawmakers to designate a precise and limited timeframe for cleanup operations. Enough years have been wasted in bureaucratic wrangling about responsibility and budgets.
We are delighted that the Israeli public – especially people in the Western Galilee and Nahariya, where asbestos is most prevalent – will be less exposed to the dangers of asbestos waste in their communities".
Background to the lawsuit
Adam Teva V'Din and AQLEN filed in the Haifa Administrative Court against the Ministry for Environmental Protection and the City of Nahariya, after the Nahariya municipality refused a Treasury grant of several million shekels designated for clean-up of asbestos waste throughout the town. The mayor refused the funds because he felt that responsibility for asbestos clean-up should be placed on the State.
Our lawsuit was the main trigger that forced the Environment Ministry to set up an asbestos authority and to draft the law that includes a significant fund for clean-up. Keren Halperin-Museri adds, "We withdrew our case the day after the law was passed and the same day that Green Way (the government-appointed agency for removing asbestos waste) rolled out its operations in the north."
IUED's work on asbestos waste was made possible by the generous support of the Green Environment Fund, the Beracha Foundation and the Sebba Charitable Trust.