Heavily polluted Israeli stream cuts beach in half

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The world’s increasingly polluted seas and oceans, as well as rising sea levels, are now becoming a sad reality as Mankind’s contribution is becoming increasingly evident. Whether this causes massive fish die-offs, or other ecological catastrophes like toxic coast pollution, more and more of the world’s environmental problems are being linked to human caused abuse of natural resources.

Israel’s long Mediterranean beachfront, stretching from Gaza all the way to Lebanon, is no exception to this sad fact. A number of heavily polluted streams empty from Israel into the Eastern Mediterrnean, adding to the sea’s already increasing pollution.

One of these streams, the Poleg Stream, now empties into the sea just meters from one of the city of Netanya’s most prestigious beachfronts, Poleg Beach. Until recently this steam, which originates in the hills of the West Bank and meanders through the country’s Sharon region, emptied south of the main Poleg beachfront; or virtually disappeared into the sand during the hot summer months. Due to recent heavy rains, however, the course the stream has changed. It now empties its polluted contents into the Mediterranean, almost in the center of the Poleg beachfront; literally cutting it in half. On a recent weekend visit, children were observed by this writer actually walking into and playing by the stream.

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Poleg Beach’s popularity stems largely from the fact that visitors can literally drive their cars down to the beach area, instead of having to park some distance away and then descend flights of stairs or walk down steep inclines to reach the beachfront. Even during the winter “off months”, the beachfront is a popular attraction on warm sunny days.

Upon contacting one of Israel’s leading environmental watchdog NGOs, Zalul (meaning “clear”), one of their spokespersons, Lilach, said that they are aware of the problem which was caused by a natural diversion of the stream’s flow. “The main issue at the moment is who will be responsible for dealing with this situation: the Netanya municipality or another body such as the Nature and Parks Authority,” she told Green Prophet.

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Close examination of the water flowing in the stream and the various types of trash and other objects found there indicate that the current situation is definitely a health hazard that will become even more serious as it gets closer to the official beach season, around the end of May. A considerable amount or work is needed to re-divert the stream’s flow to a “safer” area further south; an area which falls under the jurisdiction of the Nature and Parks Authority.

In the meantime, beach visitors will have to contend with the changed course of the stream, that in better times included an estuary for sea turtles to come and lay their eggs. Those times are long gone now, unfortunately.

Read more on marine and coastal pollution in the eastern Mediterranean :
Mysterious fish die-off in Tunisia sparks world-ending debate (video)

Lebanon: Greenpeace investigation reveals toxic coast pollution

Oceans spiralling downward, threatening life on earth

Photos of the Poleg Stream by Maurice Picow

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