The Mekorot Water Reservoir Campaign

This campaign sought to mobilize Mitzpe Ramon’s citizens against the plan to construct a vast drinking-water reservoir on open desert land, in close proximity to the edge of the Ramon Crater.

In 2016, Mekorot, the national water company, began to plan the construction of a vast reservoir on 4000 sq/m, with a capacity of 30,000 M/3. The planning began with the identification of several optional locations.

For some reason, Mekorot engaged only Mitzpe Ramon’s Local Council in the process while excluding the Environmental Protection Committee of the Council itself and the Environmental Unit of the Negev Highlands – the very institutions charged with the protection of the environment of Mitzpe Ramon’s municipal territory.

Going forward, the local planning committee then opted for the worst possible location from an environmental perspective, according to Keshet’s experts.

At the chosen location, the reservoir – once constructed – would completely destroy a large area near the edge of the crater cliff, in the vicinity of the Field School.

After thorough examination of the various options presented in the plan’s appendix, Keshet pointed out many methodological errors and other mistakes. Apparently, these errors led the planning committee to its preferred option, notwithstanding the grievious environmental damage.

Location of the selected option on the plan of for the reservoir.

In February 2017, following a wide-ranging public campaign run by Keshet, a letter signed by 330 local residents was sent to the chairman of the Southern Region Regional Planning Committee, detailing the shortcomings, errors, and misrepresentations in the selection process of the reservoir’s preferred location.

However, since August 2017, the Regional Committee continuously refused to hold a meeting to hear Keshet’s findings and claims, and continued to back the project.

Poster of the Campaign

Keshet’s objections to Mekorot’s plans for the reservoir

Mekorot advanced its plan for the reservoir, at the same location, using two separate statutory channels:

  • It presented it within the context and as part of the ‘Sfat Midbar’ plan, a blueprint for ecotourism and agricultural plots in the upper Zin valley, along the northern cliff of the crater.
  • Mekorot also advanced its goal in a focused plan, at the same location.

Both plans were submitted for comments and objections at the end of 2017. Keshet consequently submitted objections to both plans.

The position of the reservoir on an aerial photograph

On February 18, 2018, the Southern Regional Planning Committee held a hearing on the Sfat Midbar Plan. Keshet’s first requested that the plot for the reservoir be excluded from the Sfat Midbar blueprint, so it could be addressed when discussing the focused plan. Bundling the reservoir into the ‘Sfat Midbar’ blueprint would not serve either project.

During the course of the hearing, the Committee suggested that Keshet’s request be accepted, and the representatives of Mekorot summarily agreed.

On April 9, 2018, the Committee held its hearing on the focused plan. All of Keshet‘s objections, comments and suggestions were heard. Unfortunately, the Committee rejected all of Keshet’s arguments. The Committee also denied Keshet’s request to appeal to the National Committee.

Thus, this important environmental campaign came to an unsatisfactory end.

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