RAMALLAH/STOCKHOLM (IRIN) - The Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) continues to suffer from drought, but the head of the Palestinian Water Authority told IRIN there was a limit to what he could do to help.
“Crisis management is the only strategy that I am able to apply,” Shaddad Attili, the head of the Water Authority, told IRIN while attending World Water Week in Stockholm (13-23 August).
He said he did not have the power to plan properly for his constituents, the 3.5 million Palestinians in the OPT, as the Oslo Accords left too much control in Israeli hands.
“We have to go to the Israelis to get permission to do projects, like drilling, building reservoirs or laying pipes,” Attili said this week after attending a round of negotiations with his Israeli counterparts as part of the 2007 Annapolis peace process.
“It is a very complex procedure,” he said, noting that projects have been delayed for over a decade.
Even in the autonomous parts of the OPT, the Palestinians must still bring project proposals before the Joint Water Committee, where Israel can veto plans.
“We suffer the worst”
“We are all suffering from climate change in the region; Israel and Jordan are also affected,” said Attili. “But we suffer the worst, because we don’t have control over our own resources.”
According to an agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians, details of the current talks are kept under wraps so as not to impede progress, but water resources are one of the key final status issues being discussed.
In the south of the West Bank, in Hebron District, where herders and other residents have been harshly affected by the lack of water, some aid groups like the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have stepped in.
“We conducted emergency water trucking for 10 communities in southern Hebron,” said Matteo Benatti, the ICRC head in Hebron, adding that the agency was also looking at long-term solutions.
While the West Bank situation was bad, the plight of the Gaza Strip was deemed “catastrophic” by Attili.
Uncontrolled pumping from the aquifer in the enclave as well as problems in handling waste water — stemming from financial constraints, historic mismanagement dating back to before the existence of the Palestinian Authority and the impact of the sanctions on Gaza since Hamas seized control — has left the territory with polluted water, most of it undrinkable.
Louay Froukh, a senior water consultant, told IRIN during World Water Week that Gaza was facing an increasing health risk due to the lack of well-functioning sanitation systems.
Many people in Gaza rely on leaky septic tanks, he said.
While the tanks can flood into the streets, they also seep into the groundwater, adding to the pollution.
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