The Mayor of the Municipality of Ashdod (Israel), Mr. Yechiel Lasry, received the Istanbul Environment Friendly City Award from Ms. Maria Carmela Giarratano, President of the Bureau of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols, during an official ceremony that took place on 2 December 2019 -- the first day of COP21 -- in Naples, Italy.
Ashdod was announced on 13 November 2019 as the winner of the second edition of the award, which was established by virtue of a Decision of the 19th Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention (Athens, Greece, February 2016) in the context of the implementation of the Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development (MSSD).
In the press release announcing Ashdod as the winner for the 2018-2019 edition of the award, UNEP/MAP Coordinator Gaetano Leone highlighted the action taken by Ashdod to reconcile development with environmental protection, recalling the Mayor of Naples remarks in the opening session that although urban areas in coastal zones may face many challenges, many solutions can be found in their urban realities.
In his acceptance speech on behalf of the Municipality, Mayor Lasry said that he was delighted to receive this award on behalf of the residents of the city of Ashdod: “I would like to convey our gratitude for the trust and respect for this prestigious award. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Turkish Government for initiating this competition, for recognizing the local authorities surrounding the Mediterranean as key players, and encouraging all of us, to do more, and improve our shared environment.
“This award is also a great responsibility: to continue preserving the environment in general and the marine environment, in particular. I believe in the municipality's impact on the quality of life of its residents, and in our common collective responsibility, for the quality of life for future generations. Sustainability knows no geographical boundaries, in this respect, we are one family”, the Mayor observed.
The call for applications, which was open from May to September 2019, indicated the selection criteria and invited cities located along the Mediterranean coast to apply by demonstrating concrete steps taken and progress achieved under four main criteria categories, namely nature and biodiversity protection; built environment (housing and urban planning); social, economic and cultural sustainability; and governance, in line with the priorities of the Mediterranean Action Plan and the principles enshrined in the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols.
A technical committee formed by representatives of the United Nations Environment Programme/Mediterranean Action Plan (UNEP/MAP) – Barcelona Convention Secretariat, including MAP Regional Activity Centres, and three independent experts evaluated the applications based on the selection criteria, and subsequently shortlisted three cities. The city of Ashdod was eventually recommended to the Jury as the winner, followed by Crikvenica (Croatia) as the runner-up. Hatay (Turkey) took the third spot on the podium.
The application received from Ashdod demonstrated a set of integrated sustainability measures that proved decisive in the selection process. Such measures included energy efficiency, public transport, optimized water management, including the reduction of leakage, and effective waste management combined with the minimization of landfilled waste. The winning city also invested in public awareness-raising programmes to encourage citizen action in support of sustainability. Other bold measures include flood risk reduction and coastal protection: only four kilometers of the city’s shoreline is urbanized with a fully implemented setback zone of 100 meters. The coastal area is also continuously monitored for traces of pollution.