Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

A land is a terrible thing to waste

Posted by Charles II on May 20, 2009

Mel Frykberg, IPS News and International Federation of Environmental Journalists:

Israel has found a cheap and easy way to get rid of its waste, much of it hazardous: dump it into the West Bank. A few Palestinians can be bought, the rest are in no position to complain.

For several years Israeli companies have been dumping solid and hazardous waste there [in Shuqbah],” Mtoor told IPS. “The subsequent burning of toxic waste including items such as x-ray films releases carcinogens into the environment, and this has affected the population, with many people developing asthma and related illnesses.”

The Israelis earlier buried the carcasses of thousands of chickens infected with the avian flu virus near Nablus in the northern West Bank, said Mtoor. The PEA also uncovered 500 barrels of insecticide in Hebron in the southern West Bank.

Israel’s illegal settlements regularly dump garbage and discharge wastewater into West Bank rivers and streams.

The Applied Research Institute Jerusalem (ARIJ) says in a report that “wastewater from the settlements is not restricted to domestic effluent but includes pesticides, asbestos, batteries, cement and aluminium – which contain carcinogenic and hazardous compounds.”

As Israel expropriates approximately 87 percent of the West Bank’s underground aquifer, with 2.5 million Palestinians surviving on the remainder, this poses a threat to the health both of Israelis and Palestinians.

“Israeli settlers consume up to 200 litres of water daily per individual while Palestinians in the West Bank survive on 30-60 litres per individual daily,” Mtoor told IPS.

Israeli companies producing potentially hazardous products have relocated from within the Green Line to the Palestinian territories to avoid the strict environmental laws that control operations within Israel.

Israeli pesticides company Geshuri was forced to close operations in Kfar Sava in Israel in 1985, and relocated to Tulkarem in the northern West Bank. This followed a court order on a petition by Israeli residents who blamed the company for an increase in pollution-related health issues.

The international community and NGOs have tried to improve the situation. The German government has built a new solid waste disposal project near Ramallah, while the World Bank and the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, built a solid waste landfill facility near Jenin in the northern West Bank.

“We have the sympathy of the international community but the situation will not be resolved until there is a political resolution to the protracted Israeli- Palestinian conflict,” said Mtoor.

The joint Israeli Palestinian Environmental Experts Committee, established under the Oslo Accords, has not met since 1999, and so any coordination on solid waste is ad hoc.

Gaza now faces environmental disaster following Israel’s devastating war on the coastal territory earlier this year which killed 1,400 Palestinians, most of them civilian, and wounded nearly 5,000.

“The environmental situation in the Gaza Strip is extremely serious and it is our priority to investigate the environmental challenges and rehabilitation priorities,” Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) told IPS.

Steiner concluded a tour of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank recently during which he met with Palestinian officials and UN staff to assess the situation in both Palestinian enclaves – the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

UNEP will be sending a team of eight experts to Gaza this month to examine, amongst other things, the environmental fallout of Israel’s use of illegal weapons such as white phosphorous.

The team comprises specialists in water and wastewater management, asbestos and hazardous waste monitoring, coastal and marine environmental assessment, and in institutional and economic evaluation.

Israel’s embargo has blocked supplies of construction material needed to repair Gaza’s decimated infrastructure, and of sufficient quantities of fuel needed to run water and waste treatment plants.

“Hazardous waste and hospital waste is lying untreated. Untreated sewage has been pumped out to sea and permeated Gaza’s underground water and drinking supplies, creating a potential health threat,” said Steiner.

One Response to “A land is a terrible thing to waste”

  1. Unbelieveable. Well, actually, not really, considering the parties involved.

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