Sunday 24 June 2012

The Battle for Water in Palestine

Gaza's children live and die on contaminated water
Too contaminated to drink and never in continuous supply because of daily power shortages, the water in Gaza is causing chronic health problems and contributing to high rates of child mortality.

26 April, 2012

One of the most densely populated places in the world - its 1.6 million people crowd more than 4545 inhabitants per square kilometre - Gaza is in the grip of a water crisis that will affect the health of its residents for years to come, a report warns.

In less than a decade Gaza's already depleted aquifer - its sole water source - will no longer produce water fit for human consumption, Save the Children and Medical Aid for Palestinians write in their report Gaza's Children: Falling Behind.

Already, more than 90 per cent of the water supplied through the aquifer does not meet World Health Organisation safety standards, they say.

Gazans have been living under an Israel-imposed military blockade for five years, which, as well as severely restricting people's access to food, employment, healthcare, electricity and education, also prevents or delays repairs to sewage treatment plants and other water infrastructure.

The rates of sanitation-related diseases such as typhoid fever and watery diarrhoea, both of which can be fatal, have doubled in children since the blockade began, the report found.

Seawater intrusion into the aquifer as well as contamination from septic tanks means Gaza's water has high levels of nitrates, said Ahmed al-Yaqoub, the director-general of water resources in the Palestinian Water Authority.

Nitrates, found in faeces and fertiliser, are linked to the incidence of watery diarrhoea.

''If you think about the humanitarian issues facing us here, water is the most important,'' he said.

''By 2025 there will be 2.7 million people in Gaza - how will these people eat, drink and work if we do not resolve the water problem?

''If we continue to use this aquifer as the only source of water in Gaza, by 2016-17 it will be completely damaged … we have known about this situation for 20 years, but it is critical now.''

As well as the blockade, the agencies that work in Gaza blame war damage from Israel's devastating 23-day Operation Cast Lead offensive, which ended on January 18, 2009, as well as chronic underinvestment in infrastructure and services for the crisis.

''The blockade has exacerbated political differences between Gaza and West Bank authorities and contributed to a lack of national, co-ordinated strategic planning and delivery of services,'' the report found.

''At every level where children seek support, that support has been shrinking due to the blockade: families bear the strains of prolonged poverty and food insecurity, with no end in sight; the community is torn by political disputes and critical services, including health, have been unable to recover from conflict.''

All of this contributes to the water problem, Mr Yaqoub said from his office in Gaza City as the power surged and failed several times. ''The economy in Gaza is getting worse and worse and more and more people are turning to agriculture to boost their income - this in turn has shifted more pressure onto the aquifer.

''The system will not survive without an additional water source such as a desalination plant.''

Israel says it has eased the blockade over the past year and is now allowing in more building supplies and other essentials.

In the past two weeks, more than 34,000 tonnes of goods were unloaded at the crossings into Gaza, the Israel Defence Force co-ordinator for government activities in the territories reported on its website.

It added that 13 million litres of heavy-duty diesel donated by Qatar to alleviate the fuel and electricity crisis was delivered.

But the UN considers Israel's land and sea blockade of Gaza to be a denial of basic human rights and a contravention of international law.

It also points the finger at armed groups operating inside the strip, saying their use of civilian built-up areas ''to launch indiscriminate attacks on southern Israel, as well as the methods employed by the Israeli military'' result in countless civilian deaths and injuries.

From Press TV
Israel's inhumane control of water poisons Palestine
The battle for water in Palestine has become a fight to survive as wells drain and water quality turns deadly due to Israel using water as a tool of control.

23 June, 2012

Press TV in its program Remember Palestine has interviewed Mr. Motasem Dalloul, a journalist from Gaza currently in London about the state of water access and quality under the occupational control of Israel and how this is impacting Palestinian's lives and its economy. What follows is an approximate transcript of the interview.

Press TV: We saw a little bit about the crippling effects of not being able to go about ones business as you would see fit and water is being used as a vital mechanism in this thing. You are also a business man so you know about the economic effects of this. Explain a little if you will.

Dalloul: I want to say something at the beginning that the founders of the Israeli state in the late 19th century thought of the issue of water as a strategic factor for their long term existence for the future..

Press TV: So this is not accidental?… This is not an accident in the way this situation has unfolded…

Dalloul: Of course, they have thought of this for 100 years and during the British rule in that region they started to have franchises from the British government over some resources of water in that area.

Then in 1965 before the 1967 war, the Arabs decided to build some dams in the area. Israel targeted those projects and they destroyed all of the equipment used and it has prevented the Arabs from renewing such projects until today.

In the 1967 war, Israel controlled all the water resources in the area, among them the River Jordan and all the passages of that river and of several other rivers.

Israel itself consumes more than 60 percent of all the underground water of the River Jordan. Compared with Jordan where most of the passage of that river passes through its soil, it consumes only 25 percent and Syria consumes 15 percent of that water.

And then in 1993 under the Oslo Peace Agreement between the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Israeli side, this water issue remained a major outstanding issue…

Press TV: So no solutions were put on the table, because it's a way of controlling the people, their movements, their ability to develop…

Dalloul: Yes. They want to continue controlling the people from a sensitive area. In 1995, in Tarba what was known as the Transitional State Agreement between 1995 and 1999, which should have ended in 1999, the water issue on the Palestinian and Israeli sides agreed on setting up a committee for dealing with the water issue.

According to the committee, the Israeli side should have supplied the Palestinians with their needs of water…

Press TV: … Which isn't being done. The water shortage is something even the UN has highlighted…

Press TV: The crucial thing Zayneb mentioned at the start is that the area isn't in a state of drought. There shouldn't be a crisis; the crisis is purely political.

Dalloul: Yes. As I told you, the Israeli policy is holding the neck of the bottle of water in that area and allows only slight drops for the Palestinians and even for the other countries surrounding Israel.

I want to tell you something surprising that Israel supported by the US is trying to go over the line. On 26th April 2012, it signed with a US aid organization an investment agreement to invest in agricultural projects in the countries of the River Nile passing such as Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda. These projects are to build dams and these dams will elicit an amount of water for Egypt and for these other Arab countries.

Press TV: So now not only are things being done from one side, they have moved over to the Nile…

Dalloul: Yes. And what they are also doing is that they are stealing the water from the underground reserves in Sinai also.

Israel has deep wells along lines between Israel and Sinai and these wells withdraw the underground from water from the Sinai so that the Bedouins there… the wells of the Bedouins… they are drained and they suffer problems for their work. This also happens with the wells of the Palestinians.

Press TV: They can't dig far enough to try and counteract…indeed.

Dalloul: The depth of the Palestinian wells ranges from only 60 to 70 to a maximum of 100 meters, but the Israeli wells range from 1,500 to 2,000 meters.

My uncles are farmers and before coming here they told me that their well has been drained. Before draining... the amount of saline had increased too much.

Press TV: So there is completely nothing there? …

Dalloul: It is a point about the daily consumption of water by the Israeli citizens.
It is OK that Israeli citizens consume from 240 to 280 liters per day, but the consumption of the settlers hits 700 liters per day.

Compared to the Palestinians as Zayneb said, the Palestinians have only 50 liters per day. This is half of the minimum amount decided by the World Health Organization.

Press TV: In Ramallah in terms of the way in which some of these areas have been completely drained of all the resources. Sister Zeinab mentioned there that Ramallah has a rainfall equivalent to Berlin - as we know, not the driest city in the world - the West Bank is comparable to Paris. These areas should be plentiful, the economy should be able to flourish and grow.

Dalloul: It should be for sure, but what the Israelis do to steal the water from the wells of the Palestinians, the Israelis have the equipment and have the political weight to dig and they don’t need licenses to dig deep wells.

The wells of the Palestinians, yes, they don’t exceed 100 meters, but the Israeli wells range from 1,500 to 2,000 meters and this drains all the underground water and so that the salinity in the water increases and toxic materials appear in the water such as chlorides and lead. The water in the Palestinian territories contains a high amount of lead, which is highly toxic and highly poisonous...

Press TV: What does this do to the economy because surely agricultural land is destroyed?

It destroys the economy. A lot of farmers give up work because they don’t have enough water. If they have enough water, they suffer because of the poisons; it is not good for agriculture and even for manufacturing and factories. Because of the shortage of water and they need the water for industries, they sometimes give up or they don't know what to do.

The expenses of industry became high because of the high expenses being spent on water. Something important I want to mention here is that the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs mentioned in their book some statistics, [including] that 50,000 children from the Palestinian Territories don’t have any kind of access to water; 150,000 have limited access and they give the example of a few hours every six days access to water resources. 28,000 children in the Palestinian Territories in health problems related to water poisons.

For video GO HERE

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