Four months after the Health Ministry issued a warning about air quality in the Jerusalem Central Bus Station, bus commuters are still at risk.
The issue, according to the ministry, is the lack of an air filtration system on the third floor of the bus depot and shopping area, where passengers are forced to breathe the polluted air while waiting for their bus.
In late November, the Knesset called for urgent action to fix the air quality issue in the busy terminal.
“Give a service without diseases,” chairman of the Knesset State Control Committee Amnon Cohen demanded of the manager’s of the bus station during a committee meeting. “Make money, but not at the expense of public health.”
In response the attorney representing the bus station said the problem was not easily remedied and was a result of poor planning on the part of the city.
“All of the government officials involved with planning the station, which opened in 2001, decided in the 1990s to build a central bus station in Jerusalem in this location in a closed building,” said Noam Ronen, an attorney representing the bus station. “Why a closed building, you ask me? Good question. It’s an issue of environmental quality.”
The fines, exceeding NIS 700,000 or approximately $200,000 USD, have gone unpaid by the bus station, causing the Health Ministry to send the debt to collections to demand the amount due from bus station owners.
Improvements to the existing structure to increase air quality have also not been implemented, leaving commuters to breathe in heavily polluted air and causing the Health Ministry to recommend that commuters spend as little time as possible waiting near the gates of the bus. Instead, the Health Ministry said in a recent advisory, commuters should wait for as long as possible before entering the most-polluted areas of the station to get on to their bus.