Pollution at Nahal Prat

“The PA has zero control over the environment in Judea and Samaria, polluting and suffocating both Israeli and Arab communities,” says Eitan Melet of the Regavim NGO.

This article first appeared on World Israel News, by Aryeh Savir

The Palestinian Authority’s Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said Israel’s “colonial settlements and their waste” are “Palestine’s most significant environmental dangers” in his address at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow on Tuesday. .

Listing the various grievances against Israel’s supposed environmental policies, Shtayyeh accused the Jewish state of “target[ing] land, trees, and water resources” and claimed that “around 2.5 million trees have been uprooted since 1967.”

Additionally, Israel has been “exhausting the resources of the Dead Sea, which threatens to dry it up, and restricting Palestine’s access to its shores,” Shtayyeh claimed.

However, an examination of the facts shows that the PA is the primary and almost sole environmental contaminator in Judea and Samaria on multiple levels.

The Prat Stream is polluted from sewage coming from Al-Bireh. The Shiban Stream is polluted by the slaughterhouses of Ramallah. Nahal Alexander is contaminated by PA oil mills in Samaria. The Hebron River is polluted by Hebron’s marble industry.

The Ramallah municipality poured massive mounds of trash into an abandoned quarry in the Binyamin region. More than 10,000 cubic feet of garbage were dumped there for weeks and then set on fire. The fire burned for almost a week, and the smoke reached the outskirts of Jerusalem.

PA residents established a huge car wreck lot in the heart of a nature reserve in Samaria. Hundreds of similar sites are scattered throughout the PA-administered areas of Judea and Samaria, in almost every Arab village.

An illegal Arab quarry, covering thousands of dunams in eastern Gush Etzion, is the largest quarry between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. The extent of the environmental and scenic damage this quarry causes is indescribable, and this is only one of many more within the Palestinian Authority, without supervision, without control, and without rehabilitation operations.

A nature reserve controlled by the Palestinian Authority in the Judean Desert is crossed by miles of roads and pocked by hundreds of illegal structures.

A tire-burning site near Ramallah pollutes the area for the wire extracted from the tires.

The sewage from Bir Zeit University, from the town, and from nearby villages, flows openly as a stream of raw sewage in Samaria, without any treatment.

Eitan Melet, Field Coordinator for Judea and Samaria for Regavim, an NGO dedicated to the protection of Israel’s national lands and resources, documented these enviromental crimes and accused Shtayyah of “lying to the whole world.”

“The PA has zero control over the environment in Judea and Samaria, polluting and suffocating both Israeli and Arab communities,” he charged.

In the last few years, the industry of illegal junkyards has grown, turning into a serious, widespread, national problem. Criminals view the illegal disposal of waste as worthwhile and profitable, and too often they manage to escape punishment.

Removal contractors “save” the costs of properly dealing with waste at licensed landfill sites by simply offloading trash in the middle of the natural environment. As part of this industry, millions of shekels swap hands, sometimes even serving other illegal purposes. Everyone benefits – except, of course, the residents who live near the junkyards, and the environment itself.

In wadis, old quarries, and abandoned fields throughout the Land of Israel, you can find all kinds of waste scattered across the ground: regular garbage, construction waste, electronic waste, and even carcasses of various animals. All this waste affects the topsoil, groundwater, and air quality. Untreated effluents and other materials also cause major, long-term damage to the environment.

Illegal junkyards are active all over Israel – however, they are particularly common in the Negev and Judea & Samaria. In these two areas, a sore lack of effective governance allows for environmental criminals to act without fear of personal consequence. Since Regavim was founded 15 years ago, we have dealt with dozens of illegal junkyards. In a number of cases, we filed petitions that resulted in some junkyards being shut down, while others are still being challenged in the legal realm.

In each case, we make a point to stress that this is an industry; it’s well-planned, organized, environmental abuse. Like with other illegal activity, enforcement and punishment should be carried out to the fullest extent. The hundreds of illegal junkyards throughout Israel must be closed right now!

In response to Regavim’s complaint over new environmental hazards in Nahal Alexander, the Ministry of Environmental Protection has placed the blame elsewhere.

Nahal Alexander, which flows from the western side of the Samaria mountain belt through the Sharon area and into the Mediterranean Sea, has been plagued by an ecological disaster — mainly due to sewage coming from areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

For a number of years, Regavim has been monitoring pollution of the river. Regavim recently submitted a complaint to the Ministry of Environmental Protection over new environmental hazards that were discovered near Taibe, namely: sewage pollution, blocking of the river stream due to digging work, and construction of an illegal bridge.

Responding to Regavim’s complaints, the Representative for Public Complaints in the Ministry of Environmental Protection claimed that the Ministry is incapable of enforcing the law against these hazards. “The blockage of the river and the construction of the bridge are matters of planning and building, a field in which the Ministry has no authority,” it said in a letter addressed to Regavim. And with regards to sewage pollution, the Ministry claimed that the responsibility lies with the sewage and water corporation ‘Mei Iron’.

“This is an infuriating answer,” said Yachin Zik, Head of Activity for Regavim, “It’s inconceivable that the Ministry of Environmental Protection should dodge the issue, refrain from fixing the problem, and allow the pollution of the river to continue.”

“Instead of shirking responsibility and requesting that Regavim turn to other bodies, it would be better if the Ministry pressure the local planning and building committee to deal with the problem. We are hopeful that Minister Gila Gamliel, who recently assumed her role, will act more firmly against such incidents and instruct her people to take action rather than engaging in tiresome bureaucracy.”