Ramallah is leading the way as the heart of Palestine’s environmental awakening. City-dwellers are planting trees, creating and restoring open, natural community spaces and reviving bygone environmental protections. But there is still much work to be done. There will need to be a complete shift in culture.
A recent history of crumbling infrastructure and inadequate public services has proliferated habits such as chronic littering and burning trash, tires, plastics, chemical household products and all. According to Malvena Aljamela from the environmental directorate of Ramallah’s municipality, 10 percent of Ramallah’s waste goes uncollected every day.
Foreign and international groups have sporadically funded improvements in the fledgling nation’s waste management system. Thanks to European donations Palestine’s Education Ministry has dedicated $3 million to environmental education this year. But ineffective coordination between groups frequently hinders and diminishes tangible results from such donations.
Even as crippling unemployment, Israeli restrictions and lack of a cohesive government hinder Palestine’s economic growth, dependence on foreign aid does not help develop sustainable solutions in the long run. Ramallah City Hall, private companies and the Palestinian Authority are collaborating on an environmental education initiative for Ramallah’s youth, investing $52,000 in teaching 4,000 students in fourteen schools across the city.
Education is the key to securing Palestine’s future. And in order to avoid a patronizing and culturally insensitive dynamic around these efforts, that education needs to be spearheaded by Palestinians. Just a 30 minute drive across the border Arab-Israelis and Palestinians living in Israel recently emerged on the national stage as innovators in environmental education and cooperative efforts. Reconnecting with their brothers across the border could be one way to overcome the massive brain-drain Palestine has suffered in past decades.
Even more than aid, Palestine needs to strengthen its social, civic and academic infrastructure. Foreign investment are constantly stalled and squandered without efficient, indigenous networks. This is why leaders in Ramallah are investing their scant resources in education for youth. Hope for the future depends on them.
Above image of Ramallah by Leah Cuen