The environmental coalition has no borders

"The time has come for the Environmental Protection Ministry to adopt an environmental policy in the West Bank that has no borders".

June 11, 2013 22:02
3 minute read.
The Abu Dis landfill

Abu Dis landfill 311. (photo credit: Marc Sellem Israel/The Jerusalem Post)

It is generally believed that the geopolitical divisions between Palestinians and Israelis in Judea and Samaria have not allowed them to reach an understanding on a number of issues. After living in the Binyamin Region for 38 years, I can point to a series of agreements that have been reached – despite the tensions and security threats – between residents regarding civil matters that are essential to the fabric of daily life.

As a result of the great efforts of the Judea and Samaria regional manager, a joint national committee was established to protest the construction of a garbage dump next to the Nahal Makak nature reserve, which has significant hydrological and aesthetic value.

“The environmental coalition has no borders” committee includes public leaders and residents from Ramun (which lies just east of Ofra), Beduin, Palestinians and residents from the Jericho area who are coordinating efforts with Israelis who live in Rimonim, Ma’aleh Michmash and Kochav Hashachar. The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and the Green Now organization are also involved in the committee.

The plan to construct a landfill conflicts with the Environmental Protection Ministry’s position, adopted over a decade ago, calling for an end to burying waste underground due to soil and groundwater contamination, as well as land shortages. Instead, new and innovative technologies should be promoted.

At the planning committee hearing, officials argued that the creation of a landfill would make it easier to close down pirate garbage sites in the region. In addition, they stated that the site would be supervised and monitored by the Civil Administration, landowners in the area are in agreement, and that recycling facilities would be stationed on the site.

But these arguments are insufficient and should be rejected outright. The construction of a landfill in proximity to a nature reserve would severely damage the vegetation in the area. The suggested treatment facility does not properly address environmental needs, since contamination of the nearby river would be irreversible.

The rare iris flowers that are indigenous to the region would be harmed, and leachate (water that has percolated through waste material) would contaminate the nature reserve, as well as the Jordan Valley.

Both landowners and Beduin who have been living in the region for many years strongly oppose the plan, and recently submitted a written appeal to the Civil Administration.

Entrepreneurs’ claim that the landfill is safe and would not cause environmental damage is a pure sham. When we inspected a similar facility in the Jenin area, we found that it had been neglected and had caused tremendous pollution.

There is no reason we should adopt outdated and ineffective environmental approaches in the West Bank which would never be accepted anywhere else in Israel. A solution that meets the needs and criteria of all population centers in the area and that utilizes advanced methods should be implemented. We should construct a closed facility that produces compost and energy and meets Israeli standards – not those of the third world.

Hydrologists and environmentalists, including Prof. Haim Gvirtzman and Prof. Amos Fromkin of the Hebrew University, as well as officials from the Israel Hydrological Service and ecologists have warned against the potential dangers to the land and drinking water in the Jericho area due to the proximity of a geological fault-line and the outdated methods used at the site. A true assessment of the environmental impact of alternatives was never even carried out.

The time has come for the Environmental Protection Ministry to adopt an environmental policy in the West Bank that has no borders, which would provide a uniform and all-inclusive solution. It is inconceivable that the Civil Administration would promote a plan that is dangerous and that contradicts the master plan for waste removal adopted just a few years ago.

The author is the executive director of the Municipal Environmental Association of Samaria.

Translated by Hannah Hochner.

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