TEL AVIV (Jun. 20)
Construction of the Voice of America radio relay station in the Negev will be delayed for two years, pending completion of a two-year survey on its possible damage to migrating birds, the National Council for Building and Planning announced Tuesday.
The National Planning Council voted 8-6 Monday, with one abstention, to approve the two-year delay to allow for another two-season study of the bird migration problem.
Advocates for the protection of nature base their opposition to the placement of the giant transmitters on the fact that Israel’s Negev is a traditional path for migratory birds on their annual journey between their summer homes in Europe and their wintering grounds in Africa.
Most migratory birds in Central and Eastern Europe use the Israeli land bridge between Europe and Africa.
Critics of the VOA relay station claim that high antennas directly under the birds’ flight path, and especially the high-level electromagnetic radiations from the transmitters, can upset their navigational instincts.
Reuven Irador, the Israeli coordinator of the VOA project, said opponents of the plan hoped the Americans would become so sick and tired of the battle with local protest groups that they would finally abandon its construction.
Bilateral negotiations for building the station began six years ago, and the formal agreement was signed three years ago.
But despite delay and the thawing of the Cold War in the meantime, the U.S. government has continued its enthusiasm for the project, which would provide hundreds of permanent and thousands of temporary jobs in Israel.