Sunday, February 05, 2012

Samaria in a sewage stalemate

SHARON UDASIN The Jerusalem Post

All but one of 22 Palestinian villages refuse connection to sewage line,
Environmental Protection Ministry says.

Swirling in the strikingly green valley below the southern Samaria community
of Nofim is a rambling stream amid grass and trees – filled with dangerous
quantities of sewage.

A subterranean sewage pipe connects to the underbellies of four of the five
surrounding settlements – Nofim, Yakir, Etz Ephraim and Sha’arei Tikva – and
will within a few months also connect to that of Ma’aleh Shomron, bringing
all of the effluent to a treatment facility in Eliyahu. Despite Israeli offers to connect the 22 surrounding Palestinian villages to
the same pipe, all but one of them refused the proposal, Environmental
Protection Ministry and Shomron Regional Council officials explained during
an exclusive tour of the area on Thursday.

Instead, their sewage flows into the aquifer below and ends up directly in
the stream, according to the officials.

“That’s a testament to the fact that we are doing everything we can to
prevent pollution in Judea and Samaria, but nevertheless, the Palestinians
refuse to cooperate,” Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan told The
Jerusalem Post during the tour.

Although planned about 15 years ago, the pipeline was only constructed about
eight years ago, and a decade ago sewage from the settlements as well flowed
directly into the stream, according to Shomron Environmental Association
director Itzik Meir.

Erdan expressed hope that donor countries would agree to only continue
giving the villages financial support if they agree to connect to the sewage
pipeline. Meanwhile, he also said he hoped that the relationship between the
local Palestinian and Israeli communities would improve, though he certainly
has doubts about this matter.

“Hopefully I will be surprised,” he said.

“It’s important for me to reveal whether they’re making political use of
water,” Erdan said. “Or maybe it’s a problem of misunderstanding – but that
is hard for me to believe.”

Another Environment Ministry official was slightly more optimistic,
explaining that one of the 22 villages had, in fact, recently agreed to hook
up to the sewage pipe, a deal that would be finalized in a few weeks time.
The official said he could not reveal the name of the village at this point.

Yet a third official told the Post he suspected that the local Palestinian
governments were unwilling to connect their villages due to “political
reasons” – simply “because they don’t want to recognize Israel as a presence
in the area.”

The Palestinian Water Authority could not be reached by press time.

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

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