World, Middle East

Palestine’s water crisis: 50 years of injustice

In terms of per capita water consumption, Israeli settlers in the West Bank vastly outstrip their Palestinian counterparts

Web editor: Yuksel Serdar Oguz   | 11.08.2017
Palestine’s water crisis: 50 years of injustice

RAMALLAH, Palestine

As temperatures soar in the Palestinian territories, thousands of Palestinian families suffer from severe water shortages -- while Israelis living in nearby Jewish settlements enjoy abundant amounts of water.

According to official Palestinian figures, Israeli settlers in the West Bank consume 10 times more water on average than the territory’s Palestinian residents.

“Currently, West Bank Palestinians consume around 70 liters of water per capita per day,” Abdel-Rahman Tamimi, who runs the Palestinian Hydrology Group, told Anadolu Agency.

“In Israel, meanwhile, daily per capita water consumption stands at some 300 liters, while [Israeli] settlers in the West Bank consume as much as 800 liters per day,” he said.

According to the World Health Organization, people require a minimum daily water allotment of between 100 and 120 liters to maintain the most basic standard of living.

While the Palestinian population has doubled since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, the amount of water available in the West Bank -- roughly 110 million cubic meters of water per year -- still remains at 1995 levels, experts say.

“According to the accords,” Tamimi said, “the Palestinians’ water quota should have reached 200 million cubic meters by the year 2000.”

Israel, he added, “has not only failed to implement the second phase of the agreement, but reduced the amount of water supplied to the Palestinians by some 10 percent”.

The water shortage is most acute in Area C of the West Bank, which, under the terms of the Oslo Accords, covers some 60 percent of the territory.

In Area C, more than 150,000 Palestinians live in over 540 communities, 200 of which continue to suffer from a severe shortage of clean water.

“Some 100,000 Palestinians in Area C live in communities that aren’t connected to the water network,” Tamimi explained.

“These communities have to buy their water from trucks because Israel refuses to allow them to link up to the water grid,” he added.

According to the Palestinian Statistical Bureau, each cubic meter of water delivered by truck costs about $0.25 -- roughly four times the price charged by the Palestinian Water Authority.

“This is a major financial burden on Palestinian families, especially in light of the already-difficult economic situation,” Tamimi said. 

'Life stops'

Mohamed Abu Haram, 56, from Arab al-Ramdin, a Bedouin community near the southern West Bank city of Hebron (Al-Khalil), told Anadolu Agency that he needs at least 80 cubic meters of water each week during summer.

“I have a family of eight and more than 150 head of cattle,” he said. “We therefore need lots of water.”

“We are Bedouin communities; we rely on dairy products produced by our livestock,” he said. “Without water, life stops.”

Inhabited by some 6,500 Palestinians, Arab al-Ramdin is located about 30 kilometers from Hebron -- an area that has long been the target of Israeli settlement expansion.

According to the head of Arab al-Ramdin’s local council, Ahmad Zagharneh, most of the community’s population depends on livestock and agriculture -- both of which have been badly impacted by water scarcity.

“The village isn’t linked to the water network provided by the Palestinian Local Government Ministry, but to the Israeli water network,” Zagharneh told Anadolu Agency.

“The Israeli network has provided the village with water since 1998, but in insufficient quantities that only last a few days,” he lamented.

According to Zagharneh, villagers are therefore frequently forced to buy extra water -- at high prices -- in order to fill their wells.

“For more than 30 years, my people have had to shoulder this extra financial burden due to the unjust policies of Israel’s occupation,” he said.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Jamal Juma, a Palestinian expert on Israeli settlements, said: “The settlements are a means of controlling not only what is above ground -- but also what’s beneath it.”

“Israel forbids Palestinians to drill for underground water in Hebron; nor does it allow them to link up to the water network,” he said.

“Israel wants to expel them from their homes to take over their land,” he added. “And the best way to achieve this is to deprive them of water.”

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