FoEME’s Good Water Neighbors project (GWN) launched one decade ago to raise awareness of the water problems shared by Palestinians, Jordanians, and Israelis.Over the last months, FoEME staff reached out to stakeholders, decision makers and funding bodies to identify the priority projects needing advancement in those communities. This consultation resulted in the development of Priority Initiatives, a document designed as a roadmap to guide the efforts of stakeholders through cross-border project activities, which was released on the GWN conference that took place in September in Jericho.
Cross-border relationships between administrative authorities are complex. In FoEME’s case, developing an effective win-win relationship between Palestine and Israel is vital to many areas of activities. One such area of activity is managing air and water quality.
FoEME Good Water Neighbors’ partnering communities of Emek Hefer Regional Council (Israel) and Tulkarem (Palestine) are located opposite each other along the Green line, divided by the Separation Barrier and over the western basin of the Mountain Aquifer, a key source of drinking water for both Palestinians and Israelis. The creation of an illegal industrial settlement zone officially called Mesilot Tulkarem (commonly known as Gishuri) dates back to the mid -1980’s when Israeli-owned factories relocated across the Green Line to an area attached to the west Tulkarem neighborhood. Tulkarem residents state that the factories relocated in order to escape increasingly stringent environmental regulations in Israel. Pollution does not recognize the border. Complaints of noxious odors, heavy emissions of dust and groundwater pollution are routine, particularly from the Tulkarem side and, depending on the wind direction, from the Israeli community of Nitzaney Oz. These pollutants are allegedly generated by the industrial zone. This situation has led FoEME and area residents to identify this issue as a priority for 2012.
Today, seven Israelis factories are operating in Mesilot Tulkarem. The largest and most veteran is the Gishuri factory, which produces food supplements, fertilizer and various cement mixtures. Following a site visit into the industrial zone with residents of Tulkarem and Emek Hefer and follow up communication, which included the Deputy Mayor of Emek Hefer Regional Council, some actions were undertaken like air pollution monitoring test within the industrial zone. The tests found that, except for Nitrogen Oxide (NOx), there were no deviations from the Israeli standard. Tulkarem residents remain unsatisfied with the test. However, according to the Ministry of Environment’s monitoring tests, industrial water effluents were no longer to be found along the nearby Road 6 drainage.
FoEME is prioritizing the elimination of all sources of pollution originating at the Mesilot Tulkarem Industrial Zone in an effort to protect the health for residents on both sides of the industrial zone with special attention to the nearby and less empowered residents of Tulkarem, FoEME is working to ensure enforcement of the highest environmental standards and not to give legitimacy to the industrial zone itself.
This post was contributed by Mohammed Abidaldaim, a Jordanian alumnus of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies who is currently interning in FoEME’s Tel Aviv office.