This post was written by Jesse Baltutis, intern at the FoEME’s Bethlehem office.
On March 2nd, 2011, WEDO/FoEME hosted a national symposium entitled The First Palestinian Symposium on Water Rights and Access to the Jordan River and Development Needs in the Jordan Valley. This important event brought together participants from academia, government ministries and department, and NGOs, to discuss the importance of securing water rights and access to clean water for Palestinians in the West Bank.
Presentations touched on the critical role water has played in the multiple peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine, with a special focus on the Oslo Accords. The political reality of restricted access to both the Jordan River and the Dead Sea was a major obstacle to developing these water sources for the benefit of the Palestinian economy. However, Participants acknowledged that development can occur before a final settlement is reached between Israel and Palestine. The agricultural and tourism sectors were highlighted as having large potential for growth, and contributing towards a future Palestinian economy.
The main theme underlying most discussions was the need to have the political will to secure Palestinian rights and access to water in the Jordan basin – not only from the Jordan River but also from the aquifers under the West Bank.
The following day consisted of a field trip to five sites of historical and environmental significance. Most dramatically was the Ein Fashkha springs, on the shores of the Dead Sea. Participants followed a dirt path from the parking lot to the edge of the reserve, all of which used to be under the waters of the Dead Sea in 1968 (according to a sign along the trail). However, now to reach the Dead Sea would require a walk of up to 1km. This was a stark reminder of the rate to which the Dead Sea is drying up, and the consequences of which would be devastating to the local ecology, and economy.
To read a short summary of the conference, please click here.
Related blog post:
A Model Water Agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority