Bahai News - Baha'i gardens seek exemption from watering ban

Baha'i gardens seek exemption from watering ban

By David Rudge

HAIFA (July 25) - One of the most prominent victims of the proposed total ban on irrigating lawns and grassed areas for the months of August and September would undoubtedly be the beautifully verdant terraced gardens of the Baha'i World Center in Haifa.

The gardens - dubbed the eighth wonder of the world - were opened to the public at the beginning of last month and have already attracted some 285,000 visitors, most of them Israelis.

More importantly, they are part of a unique complex holy to six million Baha'is throughout the world - tens of thousands of whom make pilgrimages to the site even when foreign tourism to Israel is at an all-time low.

Baha'i leaders are hoping that the gardens, which have been fitted with some of the most sophisticated irrigation technology to avoid wasting water, would be exempted from the proposed ban.

Nevertheless, Douglas Samimi-Moore, the spokesman for the Ba'ah'i World Center, noted that it has always cooperated fully with the Israeli authorities and said it would continue to do so.

The $250 million terraced gardens and administrative buildings complex took 10 years to complete and has literally changed the north-facing slope of Mount Carmel, from the renovated Germany Colony in Haifa's downtown district to Rehov Yafeh Nof on the peak.

The gardens, rising up the mountain for a full kilometer, include 19 terraces with marble balustrades, sculptures, grassed areas, flower beds, trees, and an outer circle of indigenous flora, as well as pools, fountains and water channels with recycling systems.

Though some 180,000 cubic meters of water have been allocated on a yearly basis for irrigating the gardens, around 130,000 are actually being used - and some of that is so-called "gray water" which has been recycled.

Samimi-Moore noted that all drip-irrigation and sprinkler systems are computerized and have wind as well as soil sensors to ensure there is no watering when it is likely to blow away and evaporate, and that plants and lawns receive the specific quantities of water required and no more.

"The soil sensor, for example, automatically checks the level of dampness to ensure that all the trees, plants, flowers, bushes, and the lawns get precisely the amount of water needed and are not over-watered," he said.

"The terraces are also laid out in such a way that the inner circles are grassed and spread outwards to formal flower beds and then to indigenous trees and bushes, which require less water, and afterwards to the wild growth on the Carmel, which is not watered at all." He noted that in some areas, around the Shrine of the Bab, in the heart of the Haifa complex, and at the Shrine of Baha'ullah, the founder of the faith, in Acre, lawns have been turned over and allowed to lie fallow.

"We are acutely aware of the water crisis, which is partly why such sophisticated measures have been taken to use water in the most efficient way possible - even less than the amount allocated," said Samimi-Moore. "We would like to think of the gardens not as a place where water is being wasted, but as a model of efficient use of water.

"In these circumstances, we would hope that the Baha'i gardens would be exempt from the irrigation ban, while recognizing their unique character and their special significance in a place which is holy to Baha'is throughout the world," he added.

©Copyright 2001, The Jerusalem Post

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