Letters: Israel's policy of planting trees

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The Independent Online
Sir: I was surprised to read your article suggesting that droughts may be worsened by planting trees (9 July). The Jewish National Fund (JNF) has been planting trees in Israel for more than 90 years, for which we have earned the accolade of the world's oldest environmentalists. We have also been at the heart of Israel's water collection and conservation programme and see no contradiction between the two.

In our experience, planting more than 200 million trees in an area of more than 200,000 acres has not compromised any of Israel's very precious water resources and has even in many instances improved them. JNF forests have created new mini-climates, introduced flora and fauna, prevented soil erosion, provided a barrier against pollution, reduced the greenhouse effect and of course made Israel a more pleasant place to live and work.

In Israel's southern desert, the Negev, the JNF has developed world-leading technology from which other water-poor countries all over Africa, Asia and the Americas are learning. In a process known as savannisation, we have planted trees in areas with only four inches of annual rainfall by capturing meagre surface run-off in special cavities and depressions. This still leaves us able to make use of the remaining rainfall in a complex network of reservoirs and dams.

Chronic water shortages affect 40 per cent of the world's population and with demand increasing annually as the world's population grows it is right to be concerned. The answer however is to create the right environmental balance and to ensure that biodiversity is preserved. That includes the tree and all that it houses, shelters and supports.

NAOMI COHEN

Jewish National Fund

for Israel

London NW9

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