Israeli Ambassadors to Latin America Tour KKL-JNF Green Technologies

Wednesday, January 15, 2014 1:15 PM

Visiting the constructed wetlands of Hod HaSharon, the Kfar Sava biofilter and Bird’s Head Forest in Ramat Gan.

Israel’s ambassadors to the countries of Latin America visited three unique sites that feature innovative KKL-JNF water-related and environmental technology: the constructed wetlands of Hod HaSharon, the Kfar Sava biofilter and Bird’s Head Forest in Ramat Gan.

Constructed wetlands: Just like natural marshland

Walking among the wetlands. Photo: Yoav Devir

The constructed wetlands of Hod HaSharon are an important ecological project that contributes greatly to the rehabilitation of the Yarkon River. The wetlands were established with the support of KKL-JNF’s Friends in Australia as part of the campaign to clean and restore the river.

Purified effluent from the sewage reclamation plant shared jointly by Hod HaSharon and Kfar Sava undergoes additional purification in the constructed wetlands before being allowed to flow into the Yarkon, in order to enhance water quality in the river. In the future, there are plans to use this water to irrigate lawns and agricultural crops.

David Pergament, Director of the Yarkon River Authority, explained this form of environmentally friendly technology to the delegation of ambassadors visiting the site. The water from the sewage reclamation plant flows into shallow pools filled with gravel and aquatic vegetation, where chemical, physical and biological processes remove pollutant particles from the water, thereby improving its quality. These wetlands are in fact a form of artificial marsh and they imitate the purification processes that occur naturally in marshlands.

Moshe Behar, Israeli Ambassador to Guatemala and Honduras. Photo: Yoav Devir

The project comprises three filtration pools containing gravel. A three-layered pipe system provides air, receptors and sprinkler extensions. Large pipes convey the water to nearby Nahal Kaneh, from which it flows into the Yarkon. The quality of the treated water approaches that of drinking water.

David Pergament emphasized the fact that this remarkable site benefits not only human beings but also the local animal and plant life, which is dependent on the rehabilitation of the river. In the future, this site will be integrated into an urban park that the Hod HaSharon Municipality is in the process of establishing nearby. Today the site is already an enchanting natural spot that attracts birds and other wild life and provides a habitat for plants – and, of course, it is already popular with walkers and other visitors.

“The constructed wetlands wonderfully combine the advantages of a natural site and parkland for walkers while making a contribution to the environment,” said Moshe Behar, Israel’s Ambassador to Guatemala and Honduras. “In Guatemala we have an excellent relationship with KKL-JNF, and it’s very important for us to come here and see for ourselves the projects that the organization can establish here in Israel, thanks to the support of its Friends throughout the world.”

The Biofilter Project: Saving every single drop of rain

The biofilter in Kfar Saba. Photo: Yoav Devir

Two hundred million cubic meters of rain are washed out into the sea from Israel every year. In Kfar Saba, however, an innovative biofilter facility enables rainwater to be collected, stored and purified with the help of a variety of plant species, before being channeled into the local aquifer. This unique project was established in Kfar Sava with the support of KKL-JNF’s Friends in Australia, in conjunction with Kfar Sava Municipality and Melbourne’s Monash University.

In the course of their visit, the Israeli ambassadors to Latin America met Dr. Yaron Zinger, the initiator of the Biofilter Project. “When the rainwater flows along the city streets it picks up toxic materials that pollute the sea and cause damage to Israel’s beaches,” explained Dr. Zinger. “The biofilter offers a great many advantages: it solves the problem of dwindling groundwater resources, it relieves the pressure on the drainage networks, it creates a green urban landscape and it keeps the beaches clean – all this by means of green technology that is easy to maintain.”

In the summertime, when there is no rainfall, water is pumped out of polluted wells to be purified before being returned as clean water either to the same well or to the groundwater system. Dr. Zinger refers to this process as “dialysis of the aquifer.”

Dr. Zinger briefly explained the principles that underlie the operation of the biofilter: the upper layer is covered in vegetation that helps to purify the water; the lower layers are not aerated, and they provide a habitat for the development of a population of bacteria that flourish in an oxygen-poor environment and likewise encourage the purification process.

The treated water is transferred into two reservoirs: one is a nearby well and the other is a system 90 meters in depth that channels the water directly into the aquifer. Overall this facility can treat a total of 5,000 cubic meters of water per year. If the project is brought into use on a national scale, the quantity of water involved will be enormous. 

Rodica Radian-Grodon, Israeli Ambassador ot Mexico. Photo: Yoav Devir

In view of the project’s success in Kfar Sava, KKL-JNF is already planning to establish two more biofilters, one in Ramla, the other in Bat Yam. Contact has also been made with other countries that have displayed an interest in this technology, including Kenya, Mexico and Brazil.

“It’s encouraging to hear that Israeli expertise can be of use to other countries,” said Israeli ambassador to Mexico Rodica Radian-Gordon. “It strengthens relations between countries, and, of course it’s another way to ensure that Israel gets mentioned in a positive context unrelated to the security situation.”

Ambassador to Brazil Rafi Eldad pointed out that there is already a good deal of cooperation with these countries, including collaboration on water issues. “Brazil, it’s true, has plenty of water, but it has dry areas, too, that could benefit greatly from KKL-JNF’s expertise,” he said.

A research center for the creation of water-sensitive cities in Israel is in the process of being established at present with the support of KKL-JNF’s Friends in Australia, as a joint venture between Monash University and three Israeli universities: the Technion, Beersheba’s Ben Gurion University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “Our ambition is to become national and world leaders of innovative directions in urban water management,” said Dr. Zinger.

Bird’s Head Park: Nature in the middle of the city

Site of future Rosh Tzippor Bird Observatory. Photo: Yoav Devir

The ambassadors to Latin America continued on to Bird’s Head Forest, which is situated in Yarkon Park on the boundary between Ramat Gan and Tel Aviv. This is one of Israel’s most popular venues, and it attracts large numbers of walkers and cyclists on every day of the week.

Yechiel Cohen, Deputy Director of KKL-JNF’s Central Region, told the visitors about the new bird-watching center that is in the process of being established in the park, with the support of KKL-JNF’s Friends in Australia. He reviewed other noteworthy spots in the area, including the Seven Mills site, where watermills constructed along the banks of the Yarkon in the 19th century can still be seen, and Tel Napoleon, which is the site of an ancient settlement.

He also mentioned the park’s cycling trails, which are extremely popular with cycling enthusiasts. There was little need for explanations in this case, as throughout the tour, cyclists could be seen everywhere pedaling their way along the various routes.

The new information the ambassadors acquired and the events they experienced in the course of their tour with KKL-JNF will no doubt prove helpful to them when they return to the countries to which they are posted. At the same time, they were reminded of some of Israel’s more attractive aspects and provided with some ideas for possible new collaborations in the future.