Israel 'restricting' access to water for Palestinians


AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL has reported that Palestinians living under Israeli occupation consume a fraction of the amount of water used by Israelis.

In a 112-page report, Troubled Waters – Palestinians denied fair access to water, Amnesty said: “The inequality in access to water between Israelis and Palestinians is striking. Palestinian consumption is . . . about 70 litres a day per person – well below the 100 litres a day recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) – whereas Israeli daily per-capita consumption, at about 300 litres, is about four times as much.”

In some rural communities, Palestinians receive only 20 litres a day, the minimum recommended in emergency situations.

Israeli settlers, numbering 450,000, use as much or more water than 2.3 million West Bank Palestinians. Amnesty observed that the “inequality” becomes dramatic in areas where Israeli settlers use 20 times more water per capita than Palestinian farmers whose fields are parched and livestock have died.

“Swimming pools, well-watered lawns and large irrigated farms in Israeli settlements . . . stand in stark contrast next to Palestinian villages whose inhabitants struggle . . . to meet their domestic needs.”

After 42 years of Israeli occupation, 180,000 to 200,000 Palestinians in rural communities do not receive piped water, while taps are dry in towns and villages connected to the Israeli water network.

Consequently, Palestinians are compelled to buy costly and often poor-quality water delivered by tankers. Many impoverished families spend one-quarter of their income on water.

Israel not only uses 80 per cent of the output of the West Bank mountain aquifer but also draws supplies from the Jordan river, lake Tiberias and the coastal aquifer. Palestinians, confined to 20 per cent of drawings from the mountain aquifer, are not permitted to drill new wells, restore old wells or collect rainwater in cisterns without permission from Israel. Amnesty cited cases where Palestinian cisterns and pipes connecting fields to local springs were bulldozed, destroying crops on which farm families depended.

The situation in Gaza is worse: 95 per cent of water drawn from the southern coastal aquifer, which supplies 1.5 million Palestinians living in the Strip, is polluted by sewage and seawater, and is “unfit for human consumption”. Waterborne diseases are common, the report noted.

Israel’s 22-day war on Gaza damaged and destroyed reservoirs, wells, pumping stations and sewage treatment facilities.

Israel has prevented the importation of pipes, equipment, spare parts and purification chemicals, preventing repair and reconstruction and further threatening the health of Gazans. The situation has “reached crisis point”, according to the report.

Donatella Rivera, author of the report, said: “Over more than 40 years of occupation, restrictions imposed by Israel on the Palestinians’ access to water have prevented the development of water infrastructure and facilities . . . consequently denying hundreds of thousands of Palestinians the right to live a normal life, to have adequate food, housing or health, and to economic development.”

She added: “Israel must end its discriminatory policies, immediately lift all restrictions it imposed on Palestinians’ access to water, and take responsibility for addressing the problems it created [and allow] Palestinians a fair share of [common] water resources.”

Israel castigated Amnesty for not consulting its water authority and questioned some of the material in the report. It said Palestinians used half, not one-quarter, as much water as Israelis and argued that, according to agreements on water sharing, Palestinians were getting twice their allocation.

Israel charged the Palestinian Authority with neglecting infrastructure and failing to drill approved wells and construct efficient distribution networks.

Israeli expert Shaul Arlosoroff said Israeli restrictions were meant to prevent overexploitation of limited resources.

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