15 May

West Bank Becomes Waste Land

Israel has found a cheap and easy way

Mel Frykberg* – IPS/IFEJ

Full Article

RAMALLAH, May 15 (IPS) – Israel has found a cheap and easy way to get rid of its waste, much of it hazardous: dump it into the West Bank. A few Palestinians can be bought, the rest are in no position to complain.
“Israel has been dumping waste, including hazardous and toxic waste, into the West Bank for years as a cheaper and easier alternative to processing it properly in Israel at appropriate hazardous waste management sites,” Palestinian Environmental Authority (PEA) deputy director Jamil Mtoor told IPS.

Shuqbah, a village of 5,000, lies near the border of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, not far from Ramallah. Israeli companies have been using land owned by a Palestinian middleman in the village to dump tonnes of garbage for as little as 30 dollars per tonne, significantly cheaper than dumping it at Israeli waste sites.

“For several years Israeli companies have been dumping solid and hazardous waste there,” Mtoor told IPS. “The subsequent burning of toxic waste including items such as x-ray films releases carcinogens into the environment, and this has affected the population, with many people developing asthma and related illnesses.”

The Israelis earlier buried the carcasses of thousands of chickens infected with the avian flu virus near Nablus in the northern West Bank, said Mtoor. The PEA also uncovered 500 barrels of insecticide in Hebron in the southern West Bank. Again, a Palestinian middleman had been paid off to accept the barrels on his property.

While the PA has arrested the individuals involved, and is taking legal action against a number of them, it is difficult to bring Palestinians cooperating with Israeli dumping companies to book.

“The Israelis are taking advantage of extremely poor individuals with large families to support and with limited sources of income, in a society with high rates of unemployment,” said Mtoor.

Israel exerts complete control over more than 40 percent of the West Bank. The territory is divided into Areas A, B and C. Only Area A falls under PA control. Area B falls under Israeli and limited Palestinian jurisdiction, while Area C is controlled by Israel……………………………………………………………..

Israeli companies producing potentially hazardous products have relocated from within the Green Line to the Palestinian territories to avoid the strict environmental laws that control operations within Israel.

Israeli pesticides company Geshuri was forced to close operations in Kfar Sava in Israel in 1985, and relocated to Tulkarem in the northern West Bank. This followed a court order on a petition by Israeli residents who blamed the company for an increase in pollution-related health issues.

The international community and NGOs have tried to improve the situation. The German government has built a new solid waste disposal project near Ramallah, while the World Bank and the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, built a solid waste landfill facility near Jenin in the northern West Bank.

“We have the sympathy of the international community but the situation will not be resolved until there is a political resolution to the protracted Israeli- Palestinian conflict,” said Mtoor.

The joint Israeli Palestinian Environmental Experts Committee, established under the Oslo Accords, has not met since 1999, and so any coordination on solid waste is ad hoc.

Gaza now faces environmental disaster following Israel’s devastating war on the coastal territory earlier this year which killed 1,400 Palestinians, most of them civilian, and wounded nearly 5,000……………………………..

“Due to the extensive closures and roadblocks in the West Bank, Palestinians don’t have sufficient access to waste sites or the ability to treat waste properly,” Steiner told IPS.

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