'Gov’t must bring basic needs to Beduins'

Lindenstrauss report says Abu Basma council and ministries fail to provide adequate infrastructural, health, education.

Beduin man in al-Arakib tent 311 (photo credit: REUTERS/Amir Cohen)
Beduin man in al-Arakib tent 311
(photo credit: REUTERS/Amir Cohen)
The Abu Basma Regional Council is failing to provide adequate infrastructural, health and educational services to its population, and must work with the relevant ministries to better provide basic human needs to residents, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss reported in an audit released on Tuesday.
The council, which was established in 2004, is responsible for the 11 recognized Beduin communities – the 30,000 residents of Abu Krinat, Bir Hadaj, Makhul, Kasr al-Sir, Tarabin al-Sana, Darijat, Umm Batin, al-Sayed, Mulada and Kukhale (Abu Rubiy’a) – as well as the approximately 50,000 “diaspora” Beduins who live in unrecognized villages outside the council’s jurisdiction.
From March through October 2010, the State Comptroller’s Office examined the services the council provides to its vast population, which the office acknowledged presents quite a difficult challenge due to the widespread nature of the people, and the fact that the council has no independent income due to its failure to charge property taxes to residents.
The audit occurred in conjunction with the environment, transportation, social affairs and health ministries, as well as the water authority.
Many of the council’s residents have no access to public supplies – Makhul and Kukhale residents do not receive any water from the council, while those in Tarabin do not have the infrastructure necessary to provide water, according to the report. Tarabin, however, remains the only community within the council to have a public sewage collection system for residential buildings and public institutions, and the council has neither informed residents about the need to install private sewage pits, nor conducted examinations of the existing sewage disposal systems, the report said.
Likewise, organized trash collection is virtually nonexistent, Lindenstrauss wrote. While some residents have received waste removal after making special requests of the council, no regulated system for garbage clearance exists, so litter usually either ends up in open areas or is burned.
In the educational sector, roads that lead to educational institutions are mostly unpaved and unregistered, and the council also fails to conduct sanitation checks in schools, despite the many deficiencies that the health ministry has brought to its attention. Socially, the council also has trouble providing services to residents due to their vast dispersal, and family health clinics only exist in six of the localities – in temporary, portable buildings, the report said.
After reviewing all of these issues, the state comptroller determined that the relevant ministries need to coordinate with the council to complete the necessary infrastructure in the communities, which are lacking many basic and essential needs in the public health and safety sectors. Meanwhile, the report also stressed that it is the council’s duty to provide municipal services and regular water supply to residents within its jurisdiction, and must work together with the proper authorities to ensure that this occurs.
In response to the report, the Abu Basma Regional Council said that the findings reflect “the sad and complex reality” of the situation there, but said that since its opening the council has been operating in an area ridden with disputes on basic issues such as land ownership.
Any attempt to promote projects for the benefit of the residents, the council argued, is met with resistance – the state prohibits building on certain land plots, and no master plans for building and zoning have been approved.
While the report cited all of its criticisms of the council, it also failed to highlight any of its accomplishments that have been made without any functioning budget, the response said. For example, the creation of new advanced educational institutions has caused the school dropout rate to go from 60 percent to zero, the council argued.
“The authors of the report failed to understand that the problem is not in the conduct of the Abu Basma Regional Council, but in the government offices mentioned in almost every part of the audit, who do not respond to the budgetary demands of the council and prevent it from supplying the services that the residents are ready to receive,” the council said.