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West Bank settler waste... a disaster ravaging farms and generations

The West Bank

The Zionist settlers across the West Bank constitute a major threat to the Palestinian territories, particularly with regard to the dangers posed by the industrial waste being pumped onto the land from their factories. This waste water pollutes the subterranean water reservoir as it flows into valleys and agricultural land and from there into the underground water flow causing great harm to both farmers and the environment.

For example, raw sewage from the illegal settlement of Jalbou in Jenin is polluting the agricultural land in the area. While it is extremely dangerous to discharge human waste into open fields, it is particularly hazardous when the effluent consists of industrial waste water and solids, mineral paints and various other metals, as is the case with the discharge from the settlement of Barqan in Qalqilya. The waste discharged from the settlement of Emmanuel contains a high concentration of salts coming from its desalination plant mixed in with sewage which drains into the nearby Qana valley.

Similarly, sewage from the settlement of Alfei Menashe flows through closed pipes to a sewage pumping station at 'Kibbutz Eyal' within Israel, passing the village of Habla in Qalqilya. However, the inadequacy of other pumps and facilities results in leakage and the sewage flows instead to the village of Habla and Qalqilya, creating a lake of waste harmful to both the health of local residents and the environment.

Sewage from the settlement of Efrat also flows into the agricultural area of the city of Bethlehem damaging large swathes of land as it joins the sewage coming from the settlement of Daniel al-Darar. Agricultural land from the village of al-Khadar is also badly affected.

The Contamination of Drinking Water

Nazma Sulaiman, the mayor of the town of Deir Istiya near Salfit said, "The waste water from the pipe line passing the settlement of Yakir leaks profusely from one of the inspection founts passing the valley of Qana. This waste water flows along the course of the entire valley which has led to it mixing with the fresh natural spring water."

He added, "This has led to the pollution of the water in the 'Ayn al-Jawza' spring, one of nine natural springs used by farmers to irrigate their lands, water their livestock and to water orange and lemon trees. Waste water constitutes the most prominent pollutant of groundwater in that region."

There are frequent complaints from farmers in the village of Wadi Foukein in the West Bank province of Bethlehem, where large quantities of contaminated water mixed with a gritty substance from the crushing plant at the Betar Ilit settlement flows into its agricultural lands, particularly in the region of Ain Mudeeq to the south of the village.

Ibrahim Manasira, chairman of the Wadi Foukein assembly, said, "This water has caused the flooding of dozens of dunums of agricultural land planted with olive trees and various other types of fruit trees which belongs to a number of farmers." He also highlighted that the water had a very high density which causes considerable damage to trees and renders agricultural land unsuitable for cultivation.

According to Muhammad Manasira, a farmer in Wadi Foukein, "In winter, this water covers the majority of the land in Wadi Foukein let alone the curettage which this water causes along agricultural roads making them unusable by farmers. This is in addition to the huge financial losses farmers incur as a result of low levels of production." He added that the continuous flow of this white soil water into the agricultural land will eventually damage the soil completely and make it unsuitable for agricultural purposes.

The situation is not very different in the areas which surround Jerusalem. There, the land of the village of al-Jayb is affected by sewage coming from the settlement of Givat Ze'ev and the Israelis' Ofer military camp, both of which are situated on part of the territory belonging to the village. The sewage causes serious damage to agricultural crops and fruit trees and constitutes a health risk for the local residents.

Omar al-Jayb lives in the area and claims that "these lands which the residents used to cultivate with olive trees, grapes, figs and vegetables have become part of the territories destroyed agriculturally; breeding grounds for insects which pose a serious health hazard to the residents of the region."

Millions of Tonnes of Pollution

The Israeli human rights organisation, B'tselem, claimed in one of its reports that "according to estimates, the 121 settlements in the West Bank, excluding those in Jerusalem, produce approximately 17.5 million cubic centimetres of sewage annually."

It also stated that "today there are 81 settlements connected to facilities for the purification of sewage which use old methods of operation and which differ from the modern facilities operating inside Israel. This excludes Jerusalem, where another 10.2 million cubic metres of this sewage flows untreated into the basin of Wadi Kadaroun, in the south east of Jerusalem, where it permeates into the mountain basin in a region considered sensitive to pollution."

However, the problem – according to B'tselem – is that more than half of these sewage treatment facilities are small and equipped to treat the sewage produced by only a few hundred families; the current system fails to take into consideration the rapid rate of population growth among settlers. Most of these facilities suffer from frequent technical malfunctions and, occasionally, break down completely, which compounds the problem without redress.

As for the remainder of the settler population who are not connected to sewage purification networks, they produce 5.5 million cubic metres of sewage annually which is not completely treated and is disposed of in the form of raw sewage and pumped into the valleys and creeks in the various regions of the West Bank. This is in itself an environmental and health disaster.

Source: The Palestinian Information centre

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