The terrible story of the couple trapped in a parking lot elevator and the photographs of flooding at Bloomfield Stadium and in the streets of southern Tel Aviv that turned into rivers must not be forgotten when the current rainstorms pass. The Tel Aviv municipality will certainly argue that the tragic deaths were simply a case of very bad luck, and, as it always does, it will accuse the government of not investing in infrastructure, or of being responsible for the climate crisis. The pattern is a constantly recurring one, however, for which there are solutions. It is simply a matter of priorities.
Absorption of runoff water in a city depends on the land's absorption capacity. Analysis of the geomorphological division into absorption areas in the city shows that in most areas of the city, the land's absorption capacity is medium to high. The areas in which absorption capacity is extremely low are close to the Yarkon River (Hadar Yosef, Bavli, Sde Dov, Kokhav HaTzafon) and the Ayalon River (Hatikva and Yad Eliyahu), plus two other areas - on the northwest coast and north Jaffa in the area of Groningen Garden and Bloomfield Stadium.
Last Saturday, 92 millimeters of rain fell in Tel Aviv - an unprecedented amount, equal to 20% of the average annual rainfall. It is completely logical that the old drainage pipes were unable to handle this quantity of rain. The masterplan document for managing water runoff prepared by the Tel Aviv municipality strategic planning department in 2013 reviewed the city's drainage basins in depth, and proposed practical solutions for collection and absorption of the water runoff. The assumption was that the capacity of the pipes for rainwater drainage was limited, and that only a range of infrastructure solutions could help, from the early design stages of the urban building plan to renovation of existing public space. The plan was to create areas for absorption of rainwater in gardens and parks and sidewalks with surfaces that water could penetrate, and to plant trees. What was done with this document? Nothing.
It is impossible to avoid linking the repeated floods in south Tel Aviv, where the city's oldest and poorest neighborhoods are located, with the recent signs of protest by residents of these areas. It is all connected: homeless people on the streets, unpleasant odors from the Hiriya waste treatment facility, destruction of the Levinsky garden and the construction of a school in its place, and the crime wave in the streets of Jaffa. A few kilometers away from Rothschild Boulevard, the city looks like a no man's land. It is time for Tel Aviv to divert resources from promotion of Tel Aviv as a global city and global public relations for the purpose of bringing constantly increasing numbers of tourists, to the development of proper infrastructure for the city's invisible residents. It is not just a matter of money.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on January 6, 2020
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