The entrance to the Tovlan landfill, which is operated by the French multinational corporation Veolia. (M. Talhami)
At the entrance of the Tovlan landfill, located beside the Jordan River in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), three flags fly proudly: those of Israel, France and the European company, Veolia. Through its Onyx subsidiary, Veolia, which is also constructing the Jerusalem light rail project on occupied Palestinian land, is managing the Tovlan landfill. In a 2004 year report on sustainable development, Veolia announced that its subsidiary Onyx brought “the new Tovlan landfill into service in Israel.” Prior to that time, Tovlan was an old, unsanitary waste dump.
Veolia has a history of juggling with names. In 2005 Onyx became Veolia Environmental Services, also operating in Israel under the name TMM Onyx. Research by the Coalition of Women for Peace confirms that the Tovlan landfill is owned and operated by TMM, a company that is 100 percent owned by Veolia Environmental Services Israel.
Consistent with its activities in the light rail project, Veolia claims that the Tovlan landfill is located in Israel, rather than in the OPT. According to Israel’s Ministry of Environment Protection there are 18 authorized landfills, including the Tovlan and Abu Dis landfills located in the occupied West Bank. The Tovlan site is managed by the Israeli settlement regional council of Biqat Hayarden, which covers 21 settlements. It is mainly used as a dump for solid waste from Israeli municipalities and the illegal settlements of Ariel, Maale Efrayim, the Regional Councils of Megilot, Biqat Hayarden and Shomron as well as the Barkan Industrial Park.
Although located on Palestinian land, Tovlan landfill hardly serves Palestinian communities. Instead, it is used by Israel for dumping waste from the illegal Israeli settlements built on Palestinian land in the West Bank. Tovlan accounts for 14 percent of Israel’s solid waste dumped in landfills, or 602,766 tons annually. In 2006, dumping one ton of waste at the site cost around 40 shekels ($10), a price Palestinian municipalities can hardly afford. In addition to the dumping charge a substantial amount is required for the transportation of waste, whereby trucks are hindered by the numerous Israeli checkpoints located throughout the West Bank.
In 2004, the International Court of Justice stated that Israel should dismantle the settlements built in the OPT. Instead, Israel has accelerated the expansion of settlements. After Veolia’s involvement in the Jerusalem light rail project, intended to transport settlers to and from the city, the company now assists Israel in “solving” the problem of waste from the settlements. With the Tovlan “sanitary” landfill in the OPT, Veolia leaves Palestine with an unacceptable scar of garbage in the Jordan Valley, a monument to the company being on the wrong track yet again.
Adri Nieuwhof is a consultant and human rights advocate.