On December 22nd, FoEME led a “hazard tour” in the vicinity of 4 Palestinian villages of Wadi Fukin, Batir, Hussan and Nahalin. This area with its many springs developed a unique system of irrigated terraced agriculture based on canals bringing spring waters to pools for irrigating the terraced agricultural fields. The participants of this tour were Palestinian mayors and residents, together with activists from the Good Water Neighbors (GWN) partnering community in Israel and FoEME staff members. GPS data was used to document the status of various environmental threats.
The purpose of this tour was to update the environmental hazard map by using advanced GIS technology. Such environmental hazard maps deal with water contamination issues and are constructed by the participating GWN communities, which seek to advance cross border understanding and cooperation over shared water issues. The community’s involvement in creating GIS maps is one more step in raising local awareness about the state of the environment in general and water issues in particular.
In Wadi Fukin, where the tour started, the planned tunnel underneath road 60 that was supposed to lead to El Hader was left undone by the Israeli contractors. For more than 5 years this has created a hazard to the residents as they cannot cross the gravel road with their car and are forced to make a big bypass. The Israeli Civil administration was approached several times on this matter but as off now the Civil administration does not feel responsible for fixing this infrastructure and requests the local Palestinian community to cover the costs. The entire area around became an abandoned waste side. Furthermore, there is building waste from the construction of Beitar Elite along the terraces as well as waste and dirt behind the school and in the surrounding fields, which endangers the groundwater.
On the way to Nahalin, construction waste is scattered all along the road, even before the waste dump at the entrance to Nehalin welcomes us. We are examining the Ein Fares spring, which is contaminated by sewage leaks from the Israeli settlement above, Beitar Elite. In addition to these leaks, house and construction waste from the settlement is destroying the landscape and hence, the water.
After Nahalin, our trip continues to Husan. There we witness that all springs are contaminated by local sewage. The sewage from local cisterns is the cause of high morbidity. Also the water systems are old and in bad condition.
Finally we are arriving in Batir, the last stop of our hazard tour. The area of Batir, as well as of Wadi Fukin, have high values of cultural landscape and they are due to become part of Palestine’s Tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is the best preserved and continuously managed cultural landscape of its type in all the West Bank; A heritage which needs to be protected.
Summarizing the tour, the two main types of hazards that we found were either unauthorized solid waste disposals or sewage spills from the nearby Beitar Elite settlement. The information gathered will be put on the GIS map and will help to further develop a database that will support future activities to resolve these environmental hazards.
For more pictures of the area click here and for more information on Environmental Peacebuilding Theory and Practice with an In Depth Analysis of the Wadi Fukin / Tzur Hadassah Communities click here.