March 27, 2007 – Failure to Cooperate on the Environment Kills

Failure to Cooperate on the Environment Kills

March 27, 2007

The great tragedy and terrible loss of life that occurred today near Beit Lahia, Gaza, could and should have been avoided. For over a decade everyone concerned knew that a tragedy was waiting to happen forecasting precisely the bursting of the sewage dam walls flooding nearby villages.

Environment kills when it is ignored and all parties are to blame. The Israeli authorities have a single minded focus on security that goes beyond any test of reason. The joint Israeli Palestinian Water Committee took years to approve a new treatment plant. The Joint Environment Committee has never even met once since the outbreak of the Second Intifada. The Palestinian Authority had not prioritized environment concerns in its needs list to donor states and donor states had given up too quickly in the face of all these difficulties.

There are hundreds of Beit Lahia tragedies waiting to happen every day not only in Gaza but also in the West Bank. Gazan’s are already drinking water unfit for human consumption due to sewage and sea water infiltration and health epidemics are waiting to occur at any time. A promised desalination plant that would improve dramatically water quality was frozen after PA authorities failed to protect donor contractors that had come to Gaza to build the plant.

In the West Bank there is an estimated 60 million cubic meters of untreated sewage flowing in open wadis, over agricultural lands and polluting ground water and hundreds of illegal waste dumps similarly contaminate ground water. All the same reasons that led to the tragedy at Beit Lahia will lead to more tragedies if policies are not reversed and environment not recognized as a mater of priority.

Israelis and Palestinians are shooting themselves in the foot. Whether they like it or not their environment is shared and lack of understanding and political will to solve each others environmental problems will only lead to more Beit Lahia incidents for both peoples.

For more information, please contact Gidon Bromberg, Israeli Director, Friends of the Earth Middle East at 052-4532597, or Mira Edelstein, 054-6392937

Please visit: to see publications related to the environment crises in the making

This activity is part of the “Good Water Neighbors” project, supported by the European Union’s Partnership for Peace program, the British Government’s Global Opportunity Fund and the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund.