Healing the Kishon Stream

"Are streams with flowing water a thing of the past to be found only in literature and poetry? Is it possible to restore Israel's streams and rivers?" Moshe Cohen, director of KKL-JNF's Projects Development Division, poised these questions at a one-day conference devoted to greening the Haifa Bay that took place at "Fisherman's Wharf" on the banks of the Kishon Stream.
"A stream isn't like a sick person who goes to the doctor and pays to be healed. It doesn’t have any money, so it's up to us to care for its health. All relevant government organizations and NPOs have to cooperate and coordinate efforts towards achieving a common goal. KKL-JNF made a strategic decision to get involved in stream restoration in 1984. We should remember that Israel's Ministry of the Environment was only established in 1988. KKL-JNF has concentrated on regularizing the stream channel, preventing erosion of stream banks, planting trees along the stream course and supporting research on how to restore the polluted ecosystems around the streams. In addition, KKL-JNF has built over 200 water reservoirs, which supply water to agriculture and allow fresh water from springs to flow in the streams rather than to be diverted for agricultural uses. Of course, the first step is to stop the flow of industrial wastes into the streams, one of the functions of the government agencies legally empowered to enforce anti-pollution laws.

"KKL-JNF decided that the Kishon Stream region, from the beginnings of the stream to where the Kishon flows into the Mediterranean, should become a major park. Our original plan was to complete the restoration of the Kishon by 2010. However, although we have made excellent progress, it will take somewhat longer. We have created a bicycle path that runs from here to the Jordan River, transecting the country from west to east. I would remind everyone that one of KKL-JNF's principles is to keep nature open to the public, without charge. Thanks to the help of our many friends from around the world, we have been able to adhere to this policy, although it is getting increasingly difficult to do so due to the present world economic crisis. In order to maintain our achievements to date and to continue our projects, we need to bridge the gaps between the demands of urban development and conservation of nature, and to compromise. I look forward to a vibrant and sustainable future for the Kishon Stream."

The conference was part of "Green City", a one-day happening devoted to the greening of Haifa Bay, an area which is heavily polluted due to the Israel's petroleum refining industries. Dr. Gershon Lidor of Carmel Olefins, which is Israel's sole manufacturer of petrochemical products used as raw materials for the plastics industry and is located in Haifa Bay, said that today, industry has realized that concern for the environment and profitable production no longer constitute a contradiction in terms. "Waste as a result of production is not only a pollutant, but also represents a loss of raw materials that with better systems could be used and sold. We work here every day, and we also want to breathe clean air. We invest in the most advanced filters and recycle our water rather than dumping it in the Kishon Stream."

The topics addressed at the conference included subjects such as the future vision for Haifa Bay and waste recycling in Israel. Mr. Shai Ilan of the Ministry of the Environment noted that Israel recently passed a law imposing a fine on local authorities for every ton of garbage dumped in garbage dumps, which encourages them to look for ways to recycle. The money from the fines is made available to help with creating infrastructures for recycling, and progress is being made.

We spoke with Ms. Sharon Nissim, director of the Kishon River Authority, about what has been achieved and what is planned for the future. "Green City is an example of an initiative that began from bottom-up. The 'Coalition for Public Health', which is mainly comprised of young people, approached various public bodies and asked them to support a day whose goal is to focus public attention on greening Haifa Bay. KKL-JNF agreed immediately, along with other green organizations. Our goal is to bring life back to Nahal Kishon and to give it back to the public. KKL-JNF has been a full partner to this long-term project and is a permanent member of the directorate of the Kishon Authority. Thanks to everyone's combined efforts, there are now 20 species of fish thriving in the stream. Although we support research on how to restore the fauna and flora native to the region, we have found that if we clean up the water, nature seems to heal itself. There still remains a lot of work to be done, but everyone involved in very dedicated, and today's event reassures me that our goals will be met."

The Green City event proved to be a major attraction for local residents, who came to enjoy activities for children and an ecological fair. Needless to say, the park created by KKL-JNF along the riverbanks was the favorite of holiday vacationers looking for the perfect place for family barbecues. KKL-JNF organized activities for children, including games based on learning about Israel's nature and history.

Mr. Robert Reuven, director of the Haifa Region of the Ministry of the Environment, summed up: ""The Kishon Authority was established in 1994, and since then, everything has changed. Perhaps the best proof of this is that eight years ago, the very spot where today's event is taking place was a huge garbage dump! A green revolution is happening in Israel, and Haifa Bay is part of it."

Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive
Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive