This plan, which was promoted in 2009, aims to establish a large-scale wind turbine farm in the northern Golan Heights throughout a number of different complexes. The plan was put forth by the National Infrastructure Commission as part of a government policy to increase the number of green energy sources under National Infrastructure Plan #47. Initially, this plan experienced many delays, primarily because the military declined to approve of the wind farm. On top of this, the original developer went bankrupt in 2013; a new developer took over and has been moving forward with the project ever since. Over time, the total number of proposed turbines has been reduced significantly for various reasons, and the latest version of the plan features a complex of 4,300 dunam with thirty-one 200 to 220 meter high turbines, located between the Druze communities of Majdal Shams, Mas’adeh , and Buqata, and the border with Syria. The compound’s name, “Schita,” comes from the name of the Druze village located on the current border with Syria, whose residents were evacuated to other villages after 1967.
The turbines themselves are located under the jurisdiction of Majdal Shams and Mas’adeh among the agricultural plots of Druze residents. The distance of the turbines from the built-up space of the villages ranges between 1,000 to 1,500 meters. The agricultural plots are built on the hillsides in the form of traditional, man-made terraces that are accessible by narrow, winding, steep paths. The whole family is involved in working the orchards according to the season, and the work continues almost throughout the entire year. It’s important to note that the apple and cherry orchard are not only a source of livelihood for the Druze residents, but a central cultural resource of the Druze community. Most importantly, the orchards are a source of pride for the residents, a sign of their belonging to the place where they live, independent of questions of political sovereignty over their land, or perhaps in compensation for the lack of agreed-upon political sovereignty.
In June 2019, Bimkom filed an objection to Plan #47 along with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and Almarsed – the Arab Center for Human Rights in the Golan Heights, and on behalf of several of the residents’ local organizations, including agricultural associations, parents’ committees, and more. The arguments that we raised discussed the extent to which building the turbines would cause disproportionate damage to the unique social agricultural fabric of the society, which constitutes their cultural heritage. In addition, according to District Outline Plan 3/2, National Outline Plan 35, and various other policy documents, there would be scenic damage. We also highlighted that the wind turbines produce health concerns, due to the constant vibration and noise they cause throughout a 1-2 kilometer radius. There were further procedural concerns raised about the amount of time it took to prepare the plan, and replace the original developer. This objection was joined and endorsed by anthropology, health, quality of environment and noise experts, and was signed by more than 5,600 residents.
Additional objections were submitted by the Druze local councils, and individual objections were filed by hundreds of farmers and landowners who were concerned about the future of their land. However, as a National Infrastructure Plan, it is easy to circumvent many of these obstacles.
The discussion surrounding the objection took place over the course of two months in mid-2019, with an impressive number of Druze residents in attendance. While most of their and our claims were unfortunately not accepted, there were two significant successes: The number of turbines has been decreased to 25, with a concomitant reduction of land allocated for this purpose; and any further changes require that the plan again be submitted for public review and objections, allowing the residents to again voice their reservations.
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Bimkom - Planners for Planning Rights
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BIMKOM – Planners for Planning Rights is an Israeli non-profit organization working to strengthen democracy and human rights in the field of planning. We are grateful to our donors who support the promotion of Human Rights around the world, and who recognize the reliability and importance of Bimkom's work. A majority of our funding is from foreign state entities.