On August 9, 2010 Friends of the Earth Middle East co-organized a study tour with the Hebron-Be’er Sheva-HaBesor river coalition, a resident’s coalition that FoEME helped create. The river basin covers the area between Hebron in the West Bank, the western Negev and continues into the Gaza Strip, ending at the Mediterranean Sea.
The streams in the basin face serious pollution by industrial and municipal waste, however proper management by municipalities and government authorities has failed until now, resulting in damage to the surroundings and health hazards to the resident populations. In 2000 an Israeli coalition of NGOs and concerned residents took legal steps to the Israeli Supreme Court in order to force the Israeli regional councils of the river basin to take action. A court decision in favor of the coalition came in 2002 and a master plan for the region on the Israeli side only was drawn up. The failure to deal with the issues in a crossborder fashion has led to facilities built on the Israeli side only, to being inadequate. Today the World Bank has taken leadership on the Palestinian side investigating the building of a waste water treatment plant near the city of Hebron, to address the industrial and municipal pollution right at its source.
On the tour local Palestinian and Israeli representatives visited the polluted stream from the ‘green line’ all the way to the Gaza – Israel fence. Along the journey residents from Yatta in Palestine, Bedouin communities in Israel and Jewish Israelis from Meitar and Eshkol Regional Council, all told the same story – the negative impacts of the polluted stream on their drinking water, health risks and on the environment.
Coalition members agreed to send a delegation of residents to meet with World Bank officials in Jerusalem and the respective water authorities in Israel and Palestine calling on them to take immediate action regarding solutions to this serious health and environmental problem.
Related blog post:
Cut the rethoric: Don’t hold water hostage to the Middle East conflict