Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Palestinian villages struggle as Israeli settlement waste contaminates the environment

"The bad odor is constant here and nowadays it has become normal to find rodents and insects in this area" Ahmed, a resident of Burin, tells staring at the smelly polluted water flowing less than 10 meters from the houses of his village located between Salfit and Nablus, in the northern part of the West Bank – "It's not only about the smell.

In the village a lot of people suffer from skin diseases, asthmas, and other illnesses." The waste water stemming from Ariel settlement has played a major role in the contamination of water and in the pollution of the environment in the Salfit area. Due to the concentration of pollutant elements in this zone, many agricultural fields have been destroyed and many animals and plants have been killed. Moreover, many infectious waterborne diseases, like diarrhea, have broken out especially among children.

Betar Illit from Nahalin MartaFortunato
Betar Illit from Nahalin (Photo: Marta Fortunato)
The inhabitants of Wadi Fukin and Nahalin, south-west of Bethlehem, face the same problems. Surrounded by the Israeli settlement of Beitar Illit, these two villages, known for the quality of the agricultural products, are constantly threatened by the flow of waste water coming from the nearby settlement. "Inside Beitar Illit there is a waste water treatment facility but it can't handle the amount of waste water it receives and as a consequence it overflows reversing untreated waste water onto the agricultural fields" explains Dib Najajrah, a resident of Wadi Fukin. "Moreover, in the last years the settlers have started attacking our crops by deliberately pumping the waste water coming out of the settlement into the cultivated land of Nahalin."

Water pollution and contamination of ground water are the main environmental threats that the Palestinians living in the West Bank have to deal with. As an occupying power, according to the article 56 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel has the duty of "ensuring and maintaining, with the cooperation of national and local authorities... public health and hygiene in the occupied territory" in order to prevent the spread of diseases and epidemics. However, since 1967 Israel has consistently failed to provide Palestinians with efficient sewage and waste water facilities and at the same time the Israeli settlements have started discharging untreated domestic and industrial sewage onto the aquifer, causing the contamination of ground water and the destruction of Palestinian agricultural fields. More