Zalul ("clear", in Hebrew) is one of Israel's leading environmental NGOs, dedicated to protecting the seas and rivers of Israel. Zalul accomplishes its mission through conservation, activism, research, awareness-raising, and education. It challenges Israel's existing power structure and strives to bring the issues of water preservation and environmental protection to the forefront of the Israeli public. Zalul was founded in 1999 by a few concerned citizens who recognized the imperative need for environmental activism and advocacy in Israel. The group continues to wage strategic campaigns that target unchallenged municipalities, corporations, and the national government on the basis of their negligence and destruction of Israel's most essential natural resource – water.
Zalul is responsible for some of the leading campaigns for water protection in Israel in recent years. It tackles environmental issues that other organizations shy away from, such as the preservation of the coral reef in the Gulf of Eilat (Aqaba) and the fight for removal of the fish cages from the Red Sea, the establishment of environmental regulations for offshore oil and gas drilling, and many local battles against municipalities and industrial companies that pollute rivers and streams.
Zalul is also the leading NGO in Israel dealing with the issue of plastic pollution of the marine environment, pushing for the BAN THE BAG and BAN THE MICROBEAD legislations, and conducting many advocacy and education programs.
The Zalul team is comprised of dedicated professionals from various fields, including environmental science, law, academia, public relations, lobbyists, volunteers, and concerned citizens. Although a small group, the Zalul team's potency lies in the devotion of its combined expertise towards working for environmental change in Israel. Zalul is generously supported by various sources, such as the Kahn family, that do not jeopardize its uncompromising commitment to environmental protection.
Among the Organization's achievements:
Stopping diving activities in the Kishon Stream (together with Navy Commando Reserve Organization)
Establishing sewage purification facilities nationwide
Changing laws relating to the sea and streams
Significantly reducing sea and stream pollution by authorities and factories.
Zalul in the Mediterranean Sea
Preventing the Environmental Hazards of Offshore Gas and Oil Drillings
The discovery of gas (and perhaps oil, in the future) is important to Israel's energy economy, however drilling in the Mediterranean Sea poses a serious threat of an ecological disaster, as learned from severe oil and gas disasters around the world. To prevent the catastrophe in advance, Zalul operates on several levels toward increasing the responsibility of Mediterranean drilling, improving the supporting governmental structure, increasing transparency, knowledge, joint ventures, and more.
Stopping the Shafdan from Spilling Sludge into the Mediterranean
The Dan Region Wastewater Treatment Plant (Shafdan), the largest waste-treatment facility in Israel and one of the biggest in the world, discharges approximately 5 million cubic meters of contaminated sewage-sludge into the Mediterranean Sea every year. The facility has been compelled to discontinue this activity for many years, but it is held back on various excuses. Zalul is acting to ensure the Shafdan stops contaminating the sea and that its management shortens its process for implementing the plan to transform the sludge into agricultural fertilizer. Zalul's activities throughout the years involved thousands of Israeli citizens who hung banners from hundreds of balconies and put bumper stickers on thousands of cars, and led demonstrations against the pollution of the sea, as well as lobbying work at the Israeli Knesset to guarantee the Shafdan pay pollution taxes as demanded by law.
Promoting the Establishment of Protective Governmental Institutions to manage the marine environment
In addition, Zalul is currently working together with the Haifa University’s Legal Clinic toward establishing a Marine and Shore Authority alongside a National Marine and Shore Council. This idea was initially published in Zalul's State of the Sea Report in 2011, and the understanding of its necessity has since been adopted by government and NGOs alike. The Marine and Shore Authority will consolidate all of the various authorities using the sea and shores today within an integrative manner with an environmental emphasis, in accordance with principles of sustainable development (similar to the broad authority granted to the Israel Land Authority and Israel Water and Sewage Authority). Establishing these entities will serve as a means for coping with the challenges currently facing the government in terms of protecting the ecological systems in the sea and on the shore.
These days Zalul is working to determine on what type of governmental authority should be used for this matter. This is done by examination of similar entities abroad and various managerial institutions in Israel.
Working Toward a "Zalul" (Clear) Sea
Zalul monitors the Mediterranean Sea through reports and studies. The organization publishes reports on the reasons for beach closure at the beginning and end of each bathing season. Every year, the organization issues a State of the Sea Report, analyzing various marine related issues. These reports and studies serve as a basis for proposed bills relating to the sea and they provide the public with extensive information on the state of the sea. The 2011 Sea Report led to the call for establishment of a Marine and Shore Authority that would monitor the developments at the Sea of Galilee, Dead Sea, Red Sea and Mediterranean Sea; the 2012 Sea Report compared the environmental legislation for offshore drilling around the world and concluded with recommendations for the Israeli legislation.
In addition, Zalul serves as the representative of the public in the Committee for discharge permits – an inter-ministerial committee that provides the permits for discharge to the sea. Committee members are appointed by the Minister of Environmental Protection and its members are representatives of the government office: security, health, Trade and Industry (Industry Trade and Labor), agriculture, tourism, transport and environmental protection – Chairman.
There's Nothing Less Disposable than Plastic
over 300 million tons of plastic items produced around the world annually, and nearly half of it being used for a short time and thrown away, often ending up in the rivers, seas and oceans, where they harm the environment and ecosystems, cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of marine animals annually, damage coastal economics and ultimately also harm and affect the lives and health of humans. Zalul took upon itself to reduce the plastic pollution in Israel and ultimately eradicate plastic pollution altogether. With modern life depending more and more on the "thruway culture", this is a big challenge, but we have the will power and stamina and we are full of faith. Zalul's work includes promoting legislation (ban the bag, ban the micro-plastic), changing habits and educating the public.
"There is no 'away' because plastic is so permanent and so indestructible. When you cast it into the ocean… it doesn't go away" Sir David Attenborogh
Zalul in Streams
Restoring Life to the Streams
Israel's' streams suffer from a high level of pollution caused by factories and local authorities. At first, Zalul was a key player in promoting the establishment of waste purification centers. Today, Zalul continues to work zealously toward stopping pollution in rivers and streams, by leading a "Zero Discharge to Rivers" campaign. This campaign tackles waste spills, especially from poor municipalities that cannot afford to maintain the expensive water purification centers under their supervision, as well as pollution from industrial and agricultural sources. Zalul published a paper encouraging the government to establish a Rapid Respond for Rivers Fund, which would assist poor municipalities in the maintenance and secure the rivers from constant waste spills. Two more papers are planned to publish in 2013, providing insights and recommendations to dealing with agricultural and industrial pollution.
In addition, concurrently Zalul is promoting a reform in the fishery industry with the aim of stopping the outflow of fishpond waste into the streams and is also calling upon the government to redirect purified waste water to agriculture and refill the streams with water, as the establishment of desalination facilities progresses .
The Water Crisis
Zalul is investing efforts toward increasing transparency in water economy management. This transparency shall be achieved through the appointment of an environmental representative to the Water Authority Council and by establishing a public council for water and sewage management. The council will consist of public representatives, consumer representatives and academics. The council will supervise and audit the Water Authority, and shall provide the public with extensive information.
Zalul for a Safe Environment
Closing Down of the Ammonia Reservoir, Now.
Haifa Chemicals positioned its Ammonia reservoir, containing 12K tons of Ammonia, a dangerous and lethal gas, at the Haifa Bay, in an area exposed to earthquakes and missile attacks. Experts estimate that if the Ammonia reservoir were to be hit, it could equate to the death of ~17,000 people! Zalul's actions are targeted at the Ministry of Environmental Protection, the Haifa Municipality, Homeland Security and the courts, demanding the immediate closure of the hazardous tank, thereby, preventing the greatest disaster in the history of the state. So far, Zalul's efforts led to the announcement of intent to shut down the Ammonia reservoir, and these days our struggle it to enhance the pace in which it is conducted by the government and to set the announcement within a governmental decision with a precise timetable.
Zalul in the Red Sea – The preservation of the Gulf of Eilat (Aqaba)
Zalul led a 9-year victorious battle to save and protect the Red Sea, by removing polluting fish cages that caused an enormous amount of damage to the delicate and unique coral reefs there. This victory by Zalul put an end to 20 years of contamination by fish farms that bred fish in cages in the sea, raising approximately 2,500 tons of Denis fish annually.
The fish farms consumed approximately 5,000 tons of food annually, which was discharged directly into the sea. This enormous amount of food, some of which wasn't digested by the fish, combined with the natural fish secretions, caused thousands of tons of waste contamination to the sea every year.
Unfortunately, the damage to the coral reef was already severe. Zalul's campaign led to the creation of a safety phosphate mechanism in Eilat's port and improvements to the sewage system in the city of Eilat. This achievement has international implications for many developing countries regarding their sea-life preservation efforts.
Zalul is currently monitoring the coral reef in order to follow its restoration since the fish tanks were closed, and is also working to guarantee that there is no return of marine agriculture in the bay.
Zalul Looking to the Future
Educating children and youths to become interested in their environment and responsible for securing it is imperative for preserving nature's resources in future generations. Every year, Zalul reaches out to hundreds of children and youth introducing them to various events and educational programs.Every year, Zalul conducts several beach clean-up events, recruiting hundreds of students, soldiers and volunteers to take part in the effort. Thus far, thousands of undeclared beachfront accumulated kilometers and riverbanks have been cleaned.
"Sea Defenders Network"
Zalul is currently establishing "Sea Defenders", a network for people who care for the preservation of the sea, as part of Zalul's efforts to raise public awareness and encourage public action in maintaining the Mediterranean Sea and its shores and in acting against the parties responsible for pollution of the sea and threatening the integrity of its shores.
The "Sea Defenders" is Zalul's public branch, and is affiliated with the organization and its aims. The network works to preserve the sea for future generations, to prevent the continued accelerated beach development and to stop beach and water pollution, out of concern for the quality of life in Israel and in connection with the relatively new Israeli awareness to social and environmental justice.
The "Sea Defenders" brings together participants from various audiences: "sea users" (owners of yachts, boats and kayaks, fishermen, divers, swimmers, surfers, Trietlonists etc.) alongside businesses, individuals, communities and local authorities. Jews, Arabs, religious and secular, from the periphery to the center who all share the love to the sea and the concern for his safety. This is a community that aims to influence the quality of life, protect and preserve the marine environment in the country, and fight various pollutants that harm the sea and water resources of the State of Israel.
"Sea Defenders" provides the public with the opportunity to contribute by serving as Zalul's "eyes and ears on the ground", reporting about hazards and pollution they discover, as well as plans and schemes they may hear about or special interests that may harm the sea and its surroundings. The organization on its part will work to correct the distortions and prevent failures before they occur and will report back what has been done thanks to this information.
In addition, "Sea Defenders" will serve as a social network in which the public will be able to promote ideas, information and collaborations revolving about its goals, while providing each member with possibilities and activities that suite his or her style and interests and while assisting parents in educating younger generations about the importance of the nature preservation and public involvement.
The activities include beach and water cleanups (some within the "The Blue Brigade" – a segment within the network of vessel owners – who will receive information from Zalul regarding plastic waste reports and will set to sea in a timely manner to document and clean up waste), rallies and demonstrations for the beaches and the sea, parties and cultural events, educational activities, "crowdsourcing" discussions – a method in which any member can comment and contribute to Zalul's decision making, and more.
Major Victories and achievements
Halting pollution of the Kishon River and encouraging its rehabilitation:
Together with the Navy's 'Silent People' group, whose divers were harmed in the Kishon, the campaign led to a public outcry as well as several large-scale demonstrations that led to the re-prioritization of the issue on the municipal level as well as in the Knesset. Zalul's report on the river's polluted soil forced the Ministry of the Environment to thoroughly investigate the damage and its future impacts.
Currently work on the restoration and intensive clean-up is on course.
Protecting the Lachish River:
“Don’t Say Kaddish for the Lachish” was Zalul’s slogan for the campaign to save the Lachish River running between the cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod ("Kaddish is the Jewish prayer for the dead). After an in-depth study was undertaken to determine the pollution sources and the variety of pollutants, a major public campaign began with wide-media coverage. Pressure from the public led to the involvement of the Mayor of Ashdod and the Ministry of the Environment in the creation of the Lachish Committee, headed by the Mayor and responsible for the river’s rehabilitation – since its creation, the Mayor of Ashdod pledged to completely eliminate all pollution of the river by the municipality by the summer of 2008.
In October 2012, the Mayor of Ashdod announced that following the public pressure the pollution has almost totally been eliminated and that within the year, the Lachish River is expected to be safe enough for people to sail in.
Stopping pollution of the Naaman River:
The Naaman River, one of the most polluted rivers in Israel, is located in Acco in northern Israel. Several villages and factories dump sewage into the Naaman River at the combined amount of over 6 mcm/per year. The campaign resulted in Acco's construction of its first sewage treatment facility and the dismissal of the CEO of Miluban, one of the most polluting factories in the region. Zalul will continue to monitor the area's rehabilitation until normal conditions are resumed.
Promoting a restoration plan for The Alexander River
In 2012 Zalul commissioned a river restoration plan for the Alexander River from an engineering company called DHV, which offered alternatives for restoring clean water to the river. The paper analyzed the Alexander's pollution state, its ecological condition and its water reserves, and recommended three alternatives for water restoration.
These days (2012), the Regional Emek Heffer Council is advancing the expansion of the wastewater treatment facility in Yad Hanna, cleaning the sewage from Tul Karem and Nablus. The facility is conducted as a BOT project, which Israel is obliged to fund with money collected from the Palestinian Authority.
Zalul's river restoration plan was adopted by the State and will serve as a model for the restoration of additional rivers nationwide.
Herzliya Municipality's pollution of the Mediterranean:
The city of Herzliya's sewage treatment facility is working at over-capacity, resulting in frequent sewage spills into the sea, near some of the most popular beaches in Israel. The treatment of the sewage is only partial, and 7 mcm per year of unsuitably treated water is being dumped 600 meters off-shore into the Mediterranean. The campaign urging Herzliya to take action has led to a legal battle and a great deal of public awareness and support.
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