A development plan for Akko's coastal strip that includes the construction of luxury hotels and apartments threatens to cost the city its World Heritage Site status and - as a result - much of its touristic appeal.
The plan aims to create an artificial beach by drying up a 35-acre strip along the city's coastline, on which hotels, apartment buildings, recreational facilities and a marina will be built.
The project is part of a larger plan to build a boardwalk, stores, some 1,500 hotel rooms and 500 apartments and commercial spaces on a 1.5-mile strip spanning from the city to the Na'aman River estuary.
Akko's port (Photo: Doron Nissim, Israel Nature and National Parks Protection Authority)
The Old City of Akko and the Baha'i gardens outside it have been included by UNESCO on its World Heritage Site list in 2001. The organization is currently considering adding Tel Akko to the list as well, but the development plans could jeopardize this.
"The proposed plan for the harbor area undermines its authenticity and integrity as defined by the treaty's operative instructions," said Mike Turner, chair of UNESCO's Israeli committee. He warned that the plan would draw criticism from the organization, because it significantly alters the outline of Akko's old harbor.
'A matter of national interest'The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) also slammed the program, saying it would lead to construction on drained beach areas that would "dwarf" the Old City.
"We believe that this megalomaniac project is not needed in order to restore and promote the beach. Instead of restoring the beach it would damage it, the sea and the Old City – which are public assets for Israel and the world," the organization said.
"The promotion and restoration of Akko are a matter of national interest that should not be left in the hands of real-estate entrepreneurs and sanctioned by the Israel Land Administration."