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The West Bank: Israel’s dumpsite
an interview with Abdel Rahman Tamimi
This week Palestine Report Online interviews the director of the Palestinian Hydrology Group for Water and Environment Resources Development, Abdel Rahman Tamimi, on Israel’s plans to build a dumpsite in the West Bank.
PR: A few days ago, Israeli media sources reported on the establishment of a new dumpsite in the Nablus area just outside the Green Line. What are the ramifications of such a move on the Palestinians?
Tamimi: This dumpsite is part of Israel’s settlement campaign and happens in the context of the environmental assaults in the Palestinian territories, which has been going on for some time. The significance of this particular project is that the dumpsite will be built on the most important Palestinian water reservoir, with five ground wells from which approximately 50,000 people get their drinking water.
In addition, the dumpsite will contain waste that is unknown to the Palestinian side, which is unable to monitor or regulate what goes in there, and this make the effects even more hazardous. It will be solely administered by an Israeli company. Also, we cannot disregard the other environmental hazards that will accompany the dumpsite, such as air and ground pollution.
PR: How exactly will it affect the water sources?
Tamimi: Usually, such dumpsites are supposed to be supervised in terms of the materials being discarded there. In this case, the fear is that there will be certain industrial pollutants such as car batteries or car shells and other things, which would cause a leakage of what is called “heavy substances” into the ground water. Also, there are organic pollutants that are very dangerous to people’s lives.
PR: Are there any other examples where Israel has used the West Bank as a dumping ground?
Tamimi: First, the sewage water of most Israeli settlements, Burkan, Yakeel, Maaleh Adumim and others, flows into Palestinian valleys. Most settlements get rid of their solid waste inside the West Bank – either through arbitrary methods or in dumpsites such as the one in Azzoun.
PR: Will the adverse affects of the dumpsite not also impact the settlement of Kedumim on which it is being built?
Tamimi: The settlement’s water will not be affected. The most important thing here is that such a move shows that Israel does not recognize the environmental and water agreements it signed with the Palestinian Authority, which it violates daily. This dumpsite will only affect the Palestinians in that area.
PR: How is the water distribution in the Nablus area at present?
Tamimi: The area is irrigated by ground water. There are four ground wells for drinking and one for irrigation. These wells are located in areas called “calcified rocks” which means their sensitivity and rate of pollution is very high. Therefore, all the people in this area, including a part of Nablus will be affected by this new dumpsite.
PR: The dumpsite will be for waste coming only from Israel. How do the Palestinians currently get rid of their waste products and are some of their methods harmful to the environment?
Tamimi: Tens of thousands of tons of waste from inside Israel and some surrounding settlements will be dumped into this new dumpsite. I think Israel will use it to get rid of materials that are either difficult to get rid of or are not allowed to be buried in Israel. Instead, they will throw it over the Green Line into the West Bank. Basically, Israel is using the West Bank as a huge dumping ground for their dangerous waste.
Most Palestinian cities have their own dumpsites. True, these places have their own problems… but this does not give Israel any justification to freely use any area it wants in the West Bank for this purpose, because they have already signed agreements for the protection of the environment and water resources.
PR: What should or has been done so far to counter this plan?
Tamimi: This is in the hands of the decision makers. Yesterday [April 5], the cabinet issued a statement of condemnation. This is not enough. There are measures that must be taken. For example, this issue should be taken up with the European Union, which is usually the party most concerned with the environment. It should be taken up with the United Nation’s Environment Program (UNEP) and should also be discussed in joint sessions with the Israeli side. But to simply issue a condemnation as if it were a car accident…this is a problem. This is an issue that should be addressed to the PA, not to the ordinary citizen.
-Published April 07, 2005©Palestine Report