Natural resources in occupied Palestinian territories under constant pressures

Natural resources in Palestinian territories under constant pressure, UN agency reports

23 January � Already stretched thin by the demands of a dense population coping with decades of conflict, natural resources in the Palestinian Occupied Territories are under constant pressure from water pollution, climate change, desertification and land degradation, the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) says in a new study.

Motivated by persistent and alarming reports of water and land scarcity, waste dumping and loss of natural vegetation in the Middle East, world leaders attending the Seventh Special Session of UNEP�s Governing Council and Global Ministerial Environment Forum last February in Colombia requested the agency to carry out a study aimed at identifying major areas of environmental damage that needed urgent attention.

The Desk Study on the Environment in the Occupied Palestinian Territories will be one of the top items for environmental ministers at the upcoming twenty-second meeting of UNEP�s Governing Council, set to run from 3 to 7 February in Nairobi.

Calling on the international community to spare no effort to assist those in need, UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer emphasizes in a foreword to the study that while the agency�s mandate was to asses the environment in the Palestinian Occupied Territories, the recommendations should be seen as an effort to improve environmental conditions in the entire region as well as the territories.

The study stresses that the Middle East is a �meeting point� of escalating environmental threats � particularly the case in the Palestinian Occupied Territories, where long-term environmental degradation spanning several conflicts has been exacerbated by protracted refugee situations and rapid population growth. �This report must be viewed in the context of the current very grave situation in the whole region,� Mr. Toepfer says, adding that, �environmental cooperation can be a tool in the peace process.�

Mr. Toepfer also notes that the Desk Study team of eight environmental experts visited the region between 1 and 11 October 2002, targeting themes most vital to the region�s environment, such as water quality and quantity; solid waste and waste water management; land use; biodiversity; hazardous waste, and environmental administration.