Nahariya is a coastal city in the North of Israel, and has 50,000
inhabitants. The city and its surroundings are subjected to air, water and
ground pollution as a result of the systematic and wide dispersion of
asbestos waste by a large local factory, part of a multi-national
corporation. In addition, the city lacks sustainable planning, losing it’s
open areas for the benefit of urban development and building.
The Association for Quality of Life and Environment in Nahariya (hereafter:
AQLEN) was founded in 1994 (and officially registered in 1996) to help
develop awareness and aid the local population and authorities in taking
responsibility for the environment in order to ameliorate the quality of
life, to reduce ecological dangers and to encourage professional
environmental planning for the city and its surroundings. AQLEN operates on
the public’s behalf to render local governmental institutions accountable
for their actions, presents environmental issues to the public, and impacts
public planning and policy. The continuation of our activities will enable
environmental issues to remain a priority on the public agenda.
Tragically, the regular daily contact with this raw asbestos and the
pervasive presence of asbestos waste has left its mark on the Nahariya
community. Nearly a decade after the factory ceased production of asbestos
products, scores of local residents are suffering from asbestos-related
diseases, with local incidences of mesothelioma, a fatal cancer, running at
over 100 times the national norms in other Western Countries.
Indeed it is possible to say the problem has reached epidemic proportions:
of the 48,000 residents of Nahariya, statistics show that the rate of
developing a range of cancers due to asbestos pollutants are increasing
Aside from the tragic health problems, this situation directly affects the
economic development of Nahariya and the western Galilee by keeping tourists
away from this attractive region .
AQLEN is an autonomous organization, operating as a non-profit organization
in the public interest. It subsists on membership fees and donations from
Israeli and overseas sources. An elected Members Committee made up of a
small professional team (10 members) and active volunteers govern the
Association. AQLEN has mobilized 300 volunteer activist members from
Nahariya and the surrounding area to assist in achieving its mission, goals
and realizing its vision of a better, safer city and region.
Since the late 1990s, AQLEN has pioneered awareness-raising of the ongoing
threats to the community of asbestos. Increased public concern and press
exposure, together with an AQLEN-coordinated lawsuit, blocked plans to build
the Kiddies Park amusement facility on a lot adjacent to the closed factory,
heavily contaminated with asbestos waste. AQLEN is now established as the
de facto Asbestos Information Center, addressing public concerns about
possible asbestos exposure and its health implications, providing guidance
to officials, commercial companies and individuals handling asbestos waste
removals, and gathering data on asbestos disease morbidity and mortality.
In 2000, AQLEN and its director were awarded the Award for Outstanding
Community Voluntarism by the Minister of Environment, Ms. Dalia Itzik.
We need more resources that will:
1. Establish a public committee of experts, whose mission
is to impact the government to hurry and provide a general solution to the
problem of asbestos and the policy and means of actions to achieve it. This
committee will later monitor government activity.
2. Allow prosecuting legal struggles, both by class action
and claims, that will demand compensation by the parties involved in
polluting the region who will address damages to the public and finance the
treatment of contaminated lands and compensate the victims of asbestos by,
for example, setting up clinics.
Our mission is for another 3 years. We hope that the last year's
achievements will push for the finding of a long-term solution and that we
shall be able to increase our efforts to bringing about a comprehensive
solution to the problem.
Founder and Director
AQLEN: The Association for Environment and Quality of Life in Nahariya