The government has voted to explore options for constructing artificial islands off Israel's coast. The manmade islands are set to house an airport, a seaport, a desalination plant, a power plant and a military testing base.
The Science and Technology Ministry is preparing to establish a special steering committee to explore implementing the ambitious project.
The steering committee is charged with summoning relevant experts and organizations to examine several construction models and their potential impact on the existing coastline. The committee is scheduled to submit its recommendation to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu within one year.
The cost of constructing a 2,000 dunam (about 500-acre) artificial island is estimated at $1.5 billion.
Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz submitted the proposal for the special steering committee. “The construction of artificial islands can solve the country's lack of space for large industrial facilities," Hershkowitz said.
Artificial island in Hong Kong (Photo: Reuters)
"Artificial islands offer an alternative to the construction of facilities that would have been built on the coastline, thus robbing it of valuable land and harming the environment,” he explained, adding that “The committee will examine the experience accumulated in other countries in addition to assessing other original technologies and techniques.”
Environmental groups have already begun protesting the planned project. A spokesperson for Adam, Teva V'Din, the Israel Union for Environmental Defense (IUED), said that "the artificial islands will cause irreversible damage to Israel's shoreline.
The spokesperson said that in other countries where manmade islands have been constructed, such as Japan, the islands were built in bays or inlets and not on the open sea.
IUED CEO Amit Bracha said that "artificial islands endanger the environment since they create erosion and disrupt the marine ecosystem in which they are built."
The ambitious project of building artificial islands off the Israeli coast has resurfaced several times in the past few years.
Most of Israel's 8 million residents live in a narrow strip along the Mediterranean coast, and the country is running out of space. Most Israelis live in apartment buildings, and even cemeteries are beginning to bury the dead in multi-level structures.
Netanyahu said manmade islands could bolster Israel's economy, ensure its security and protect what little open space remains in the center of the country.
AP contributed to this report