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Expert urges Israel to use GIS to preserve open spaces

Israel: Recently, Israel Nature and Parks Authority comprehensively mapped the country’s open spaces, ranked them by their importance and make recommendations for preserving them. But, Prof. Carl Steinitz, a world-renowned expert in landscape architecture, argued that it is not enough to designate large tracts for preservation. Today, he said, GIS technology should be used to analyse small plots of land in detail and decisions that preserve the visual quality of the space should be made based on that analysis.

During a lecture at the Israel Green Building Council, Prof. Steinitz stated that Israel could learn from the experience of Spain’s Valencia Province, an area about the same size as Israel with approximately the same-sized population. Provincial leaders, who in Spain have autonomy over planning, were informed by the European Union that development and construction were turning the province into an ugly place. Since the European Union funds many development projects in Valencia, and since Spain is a signatory to a European convention to preserve open spaces, they took the letter seriously and consulted Steinitz.

With the help of his students, Steinitz took a survey of Valencia residents. He showed them photographs of different landscapes and they rated the landscapes’ visual value. He then compared the findings with the province’s existing landscapes.

Steinitz explained that as time passes, it has become harder and harder for him to identify the cultural landscapes that once characterised Israel. For example, it is hard to find agricultural land without a road or some infrastructure facility on it. It is also hard to spot landscapes that recall Biblical times or to look at Mount Carmel without the view being spoiled by an acoustic wall or a highway crash barrier.

His conclusion is reinforced by studies such as one by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel’s Open Landscape Institute, which showed that open spaces with no construction or infrastructure are becoming few and far between.

Source: Haaretz