This blog post was contributed by Efrath Silver, intern at FoEME’s Tel Aviv office
The year 2011 has well begun. At Friends of the Earth Middle East we are anticipating an important and exciting year, during which we will continue and expand current projects, as well as develop new activities. A lot of work lies ahead but we believe we can make 2011 a meaningful year, addressing some of the most pressing environmental problems in the Middle East – the rehabilitation of the Lower Jordan River, promoting a fairer share of water resources between Israeli’s and Palestinians, preparing for the consequences of climate change, promoting sustainable solutions for the challenges facing the Dead Sea, and more. These are the highlights of our activities the coming year.
Connecting more Good Water Neighbors
Up till now, 25 Jordanian, Israeli and Palestinian communities have been involved in our Good Water Neighbors project. Now, we decided to take up the challenging experience of partnering with both Jewish and Palestinian communities in the Jerusalem area. We have established youth educational activities for new Water Trustees projects in several schools in West Jerusalem, East Jerusalem and Abu Dis. The common denominator of the three is their location in the drainage area of the highly polluted Kidron Stream, which flows from Jerusalem through the Judean desert towards the Dead Sea.
Continuing progress in combating water pollution and improving water supply
Last year, various initiatives by FoEME have led to the successful implementation and start up of practical measurements against water pollution. For example, a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) in Bet She’an has become operational and another plant is being built in Betunya, in the Jordan Valley Regional Council (Israel). The projects are significant as they contribute to the cleanup of pollution in the Jordan River. Another achievement following pressure from FoEME on the Israeli National Water and Sewage Authority is the inclusion of the city of Baka al-Gharbia in the IRON (Umm al-Fahm) water and sewage cooperative, linking it to the regional sewage network.
On the Palestinian side, in Nablus, the German KfW development bank is financing a WWTP that will include treatment of not only domestic sewage but wastewater from olive mills which both currently pollute the Zommer/Alexander stream. Furthermore, an agreement has been reached to collect sewage from the city of Tulkarem for treatment at the Yad Hanah WWTP at the Israeli community of Emek Hefer. Still in progress is a World Bank plan to renovate and extend the sewage systems for five villages west of Bethlehem, for which FoEME has submitted a TOR proposing solutions for sewage treatment.
In both Baka Sharkia and Auja new water supply networks are either in place or soon to be completed dramatically improving living conditions for these Palestinian communities.
Moving towards rehabilitation of the Lower Jordan River
Time is running out for the lower stretch of the Jordan River. Therefore we are working on parallel tracks to accelerate the rehabilitation of the river. We will focus on creating political will in Israel for incorporating rehabilitation efforts into the national water plan, focusing on the ecological needs of the river. A draft plan, or ‘roadmap’, will be composed showing a specific picture of how to rehabilitate the river, based on the Environmental Flows report and the Economic Studies published in 2010. Once finished, the ‘roadmap’ will be presented to decision makers in Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.
You can join our efforts to Let the Jordan River Flow!
Promoting sustainable solutions for the Dead Sea region
The Dead Sea is facing many challenges, one of which is a rapid drop of its water level. Similar to last year, FoEME will continue to closely monitor the World Bank Study of the proposed building of a Red-Dead conduit, and participate in public hearings to express our concerns regarding the environmental consequences of the project. On the southern end of the Dead Sea, another problem emerges as a consequence of industrial activities by the Dead Sea Works: risk of flooding of the hotels on Israeli side. The government has proposed to destroy the hotels and rebuild them more inland. FoEME, together with other organizations, believes this option will also destroy the region´s environment and tourism. We support the option of harvesting of salt deposits by the Dead Sea Works to overcome the problem of the flooding, and will promote this solution to decision makers.
Advancing a new Israeli-Palestinian Water Accord
Following responses from experts on our Model Water Agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority at the regional conference last November, we are now preparing a second draft of the proposed FoEME accord. This year we will make further efforts to bring the accord to the attention of Israeli and Palestinian decision makers during a series of Parliamentary meetings. The first meeting is to take place on February 7th in the Israeli Knesset, and will also be attended by European Parliamentarians.
EcoCenters in Auja and Sheikh Hussein to be fully operational
Our EcoCenter in Auja (Palestine) and our EcoPark in Sheikh Hussein (Jordan) are far ahead in development. The centers are important community based projects for environmental education and to preserve biodiversity. This year we aim to make the centers fully operational, in both overnight stays and as educational outdoor stations, and to attract more ecotourism to these very special locations.
Important events in 2011
Many important events will be organized or attended by FoEME this year. Traditionally, we’ll arrange many cross border meetings between activists and between representatives of municipalities. Furthermore, keep an eye on our website so you won’t miss:
- FoEME participation in the J street conference in Washington DC, Feb 26
- Jericho Jordan River conference
- Events of the Knesset Water Security Lobby
- Our Big Jump event into the Jordan River
- Our annual Good Water Neighbors Regional Mayor’s conference