The issue of raw sewage may not be hitting the headlines in the Middle East like concerns over water scarcity, but in the Palestinian territories and Israel it’s a real problem. Inadequate waste water treatment plants in the Palestinian territories means that only 22.5 million cubic metres out of around 150 million cubic metres of raw sewage created every year is adequately treated to make it safe for reuse. Most of the raw sewage is contained in septic tanks which aren’t always well-enforced and so the sewage can easily seep into the ground and contaminate Palestinian and Israeli ground water supplies.
It seems that just like nature, sewage knows no boundaries and so raw sewage irresponsibly released by either community ultimately affects the shared Palestinian-Israeli water sources. A recently launched joint Israeli-Palestinian project supported by the Italian Trade Commission is hoping to draw the two sides together in a bid to resolve this sewage problem.
Palestinian Village + Israeli Technology = Regional Co-operation
The aim of the project is to establish a cooperative framework on water resources between Israel, Palestine and Jordan in the long run. However, in the short term a pilot project has been launched in the Palestinian village of Ouja in the Jordan Valley, half way between Jericho and Beit She’an, in collaboration with the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies. Israeli technology from the Mapal Energy company was chosen to treat the village’s sewage with the help of an estimated investment of around $150,000 to $200,000. A further $1.5-2 million is needed to connect the local houses to the sewerage system and the Italian Trade Commission had committed to securing this amount through EU nations.
The need for more regional co-operation, especially between Israel and Palestine, to tackle environmental issues is something that we have covered before with regards to water shortages, so it’s great to see progress in other areas too.
90% of Palestinian Waste Water Isn’t Treated
The reason why Palestinian waste water infrastructure is so poor is that plans for waste water plants face significant delays due to political fighting between Palestinian and Israeli authorities. Bureaucratic hurdles put in place by the Israeli Civil Administration mean that it’s difficult for Palestinians to gain the relevant building permits and so many plans are shelved. Subsequently, waste water facilities in the Palestinian territories are far from adequate and Israeli rights group B’tselem has reported that 90% of Palestinian waste water is not treated and only 20% of Palestinian homes are connected to sewerage systems.
There have also been conflicts between Palestinian West Bank residents and Israeli settlers, with incidents of raw sewage flowing from the settlements into the Palestinian villages and contaminating water supplies as well as agricultural fields. It is believed that over half of the settlements’ treatment plants are too small to deal effectively with the raw sewage from the burgeoning settler population. It is estimated that an overall sewage solution would cost somewhere in the range of 400 million euros.
Image via eutrophication&hypoxia on flickr.
For more on sewage issues in the Middle East: