Floods revive Ayalon water rechanneling project


The floods earlier this month have made discussions about redirecting Tel Aviv's Ayalon river more urgent.

The Tel Aviv District Planning and Building Commission will discuss today a plan for an underground pipeline to carry water from the Ayalon River to the Givat Aliya shore in Jaffa. The plan is officially attributed to an initiative by the National Transport Infrastructure Company (Netivei Israel) to add a fourth railway track in the Ayalon riverbed. Sources told "Globes," however, that the floods in southern Tel Aviv earier this month, which led to the deaths of Stav Harari and Deal Shoshani, acted as a catalyst to bring forward the discussion.

The underground pipeline, which will be 25 meters wide, will start from the Mikve Israel agricultural areas in Ariel Sharon Park, pass through the southern Ayalon Highway (Road 20) in the direction of Wolfson Junction and Ba'al Shem Tov Street, and continue to the area of the Peres Peace Center on the Givat Aliya shore. Among other things, the discussion by the District Planning and Building Commission will focus on the announcement of Section 77 and 78 of the Planning and Building Law, which authorize planning institutions to declare restrictions on the issuance of permits in land withing the plan's area. This amounts to a suspension of planning and building in areas close to the pipeline, in the Ben Zvi business district at the southernmost entrance to Tel Aviv and the northern part of Holon and in the Tzahalon and Ajami neighborhoods in Tel Aviv.

Recent letters written by Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai state, "If action is not taken on this drainage pipeline, human life and property will be jeopardized and a shutdown of national transportation systems will be threatened as a result of floods and the Ayalon River overflowing its banks, as has happened more than once as a result of heavy rain in recent years."

Tel Aviv city architect Yoav David admitted that the floods in recent weeks had added to the importance of finding a solution to the problem of floods. "We will welcome the proposed solutions for drainage from the river, but this will not provide a guaranteed solution. Following the events in recent weeks, we must prepare for extreme situations. If we take refuge in promises that everything will work out, the result will not be good," David said.

David promised that the proposed plan would not be affected by future urban renewal and construction. "We asked for the blue line of the plan (the plan's boundaries) to be enlarged, and for consideration of other alternatives in order to avoid damage to construction that we are planning. Most of the pipeline's route passes through open public space. If and when there is a concrete plan, we will make adjustments," he said. Referring to possible damage to the beach, David is promising that that survey will be conducted to safeguard the beach. "We're making sure that the water flow from the pipeline will not damage the beach. It is possible that the pipeline will extend into the water, or will be diverted northwards," he said.

However, Dalia Tal, campaign manager of the Zalul organization, calls the initiative to build the pipeline a fateful mistake, saying, "We saw what happened with the Givaton in Nahariya. Experience shows what happens when you try to put a river into a pipeline. We see that this doesn't work. Furthermore, the water will pour onto the beach. This jeopardizes the safety of people on the beach, and will also damage the coastal rock formations, which are eroded by waves above sea level. The water will come in a huge stream and bring filth with it. The damage to the beach and the sea will be enormous."

The Ministry of Environmental Protection prefers a different solution. A letter sent by the Ministry to the Planning Administration this week states that there are better solutions for the environment than building the pipeline. "The study findings show that there are alternatives, such as solutions for controlling the runoff water through the Ayalon River and possible improvements in the construction of the fourth track and pipelines under the existing roads. These alternatives will provide a likely solution for an event occurring once in a century, without a pipeline leading to the sea," the Ministry of Environmental Protection writes.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on January 20, 2020

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