Wetlands are coming to the West Bank. No, it's not the Florida Everglades; it's a private initiative launched by a group of Israeli environmental activists who came up with an idea to construct artificial swamps near Palestinian villages that are specially designed for sewage treatment. Construction of the first project started last week in the Palestinian village of Um a-Rihan, not far from Umm el-Fahm. The project is being funded by the Japanese government and overseen by Israeli engineer Arnon Goren and former Tel Aviv city council member Hadas Shachnai. A wetland is an eco-friendly way of treating waste and purifying it so the water can be used for agriculture. The system is based on two pools. One pool collects all of the waste. The liquid is then transferred into a second pool, where it undergoes a natural purification process. There is no need for electricity since the purification process happens naturally. The pools, which are coated by plastic sheets to prevent the waste from infiltrating into the aquifer, are filled with lavastone, in which plants are rooted, which assist in the organic breakdown of the materials. "This is an ideal solution for the dozens of Palestinian villages that are scattered throughout the West Bank," explained a senior officer with the IDF's Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria, which is involved in approving the project. Um a-Rihan is home to 50 Palestinian families and until now has not been connected to a proper sewage system. The wetlands will not only prevent pollution to the aquifer but will also provide the village residents with purified water for their crops. Work began there last week to lay the pipes and connect all of the homes to the purification pools. The IDF is reviewing the project and may even use the method for some of its outlying bases throughout the West Bank. "This type of project can suit most of the villages in the West Bank," the civil administration officer explained. "There is no maintenance, no electricity and it provides purified water for agriculture."