Water & Environment

Our Stolen Waters
By George Kurzom

A considerable number of both government and non-government organizations have recently become more interested in the issue of water in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Some of these organizations call for the regulation of water use and the recycling of grey-water, whereas others propose exploring new water resources. Admitting that these intentions are genuine, both are quite important, especially now when most Palestinians are suffering from a serious shortage of drinking water, from negative health effects resulting from low water supplies permitted for use.

It should be pointed out that there has been inadequate critical commentary and assessment of how Israel continues to plunder available water supplies in the Palestinian Territories, robbing us of our rights to manage and use our own resources. It is worth noting that Israel steals around 70% of the Territories' annual water resources, mainly for the benefit of its many settlements. Around 18% either contains excessive levels of salt or else is difficult and expensive to extract. The remaining 12% is all that is left for the West Bank and Gaza Strip population.

With its military laws, Israel is further restricting Palestinian access to water resources. Controlling and regulating distribution. Israel is also digging artisan wells in the West Bank, stealing huge amounts of our underground waters, and preventing us from benefiting from our rightful resources. These Israeli procedures have caused a tremendous decrease in the internal water level especially in the Gaza Strip, where the internal water level reached below natural feeding level. This causes salt and dirty waters to flow and pollute the meager quantities of underground waters left to the Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip's, making the water worthless for home or even agricultural use.

As a result of the decrease by around 16 meters in the internal water level in the Jordan Valley since 1969, a large number of wells have dried out. The overall chlorine concentration increased by almost 50% during the period 1982 - 1991, reaching in Jericho district around 1700 mgm/Lt., while the sewage waters from the settlements are still being leaked to our agricultural land and underground water.

Diversely, the Jewish settlements enjoy a superabundance of sweet, satisfactory, clean water. They do not lack in water quantities and use as much water as they wish, while the Palestinians are requested to economize in their use and crave for a drip of water. These Israeli procedures are the primary factors in the distortion of the social - economic development in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as in the destruction of our agriculture.

Disregarding all the above, certain foreign bodies imply that the tariff of water in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is lower than the actual cost of extracting water and pumping it to the consumers. Through their implications they try to cover Israel's robbery of our waters at one hand, and their own huge profits originating from investing in water projects initialized by Western companies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on the other hand.

Due to the subsidy of the water in Israel, Israeli farmers pay 0.014$ per m whereas Palestinian farmers pay 0.08 $ per m. Certain western funding agencies, such as the American agency for International Development, are suggesting a highly advanced technological system to manage the water in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The equipment needed for such a system is American, and the spare parts and maintenance are also from abroad, thus, if implemented, this Western profitable investment is expected to increase the cost of water leading to an enormous increase in the tariff of drinking and irrigation water.

The Israeli-American propaganda, which promotes either the necessity of using American Technology to improve our management of the insufficient, permitted water quantities, or the importance of importing water from our neighbors, primarily aims at intensifying Israel's control over our rightful water resources. It is a strategic plan that will eventually lead us to abandon our right to this control and will transform us into beggars for water in the same way that we have been transformed into beggars for Western "Aid".

The obligation is then to obstinately fight to regain sovereignty over our rightful water resources, trying at the same time to make maximum use of our natural unutilized water resources. These measures are a major part in our economic steadfastness, and with the limited permissible water resources, availability of water is considered a major factor in any strategy that aims at increasing our food and agricultural production whether quantitatively or qualitatively. We could achieve this by constructing a number of collecting wells and sand damps in order to directly benefit from rain water for house and agricultural use. We could also benefit from some streams in the West Bank, and we must arrange for the reuse of grey water in agriculture in an attempt to increase the quantities of water for irrigation, and decrease the pollution of the environment and underground waters. We must also encourage rain-fed agriculture and the planting of crops that do not need large amounts of water.

Originally at http://www.maan-ctr.org/publications/weekly/stolwater.htm
Recovered from the Wayback Machine, 2006-03-27