31 July 2010 | ISM and IWPS (International Women’s Peace Service)
Wadi Qana is a valley south west of Nablus where numerous springs supply water to the surrounding Palestinian villages. Approximately 60 people live in the valley itself, and many more own land in the area in which they farm animals and cultivate both citrus and olive trees.
The valley and its springs have been suffering from the effects of raw sewage, which has been leaking into the valley from the illegally built Yaqir settlement since 1994. In 2005, the Israeli Authorities finally built underground sewage pipes after numerous attempts by Palestinians to make them deal with the sewage problems created by Yaqir and other surrounding settlements.
However, the pipes have now broken and so sewage flows out of them and into the nearby springs.
The Mayor of Deir Istiya has notified the Israeli Authorities about the leakage – through the Palestinian District Coordination Liaison Office – several times since the beginning of July. Despite this, Israeli Authorities deny any knowledge of the problem and continue to ignore requests to address the issue.
On July 24th, the Mayor accompanied villagers and volunteers from ISM and IWPS to the site in order to see if the problem had been dealt with.
One volunteer from ISM stated: “As we neared the leakage site, we could smell the sewage. The Israeli Authorities have done nothing to stop the problem so the sewage was still overflowing.” The Mayor added that “There is a high risk of sewage contaminating the potable water source if the leakage is not stopped soon.”
In response to the Israeli Authorities’ inaction to this recurring problem, farmers have been forced to build aqueducts on their (privately owned) land in order to obtain clean water for irrigation. Some of these were built with assistance from the Palestinian Authority. Farmers have also built fences around their land in order to protect their products from wild pigs and other animals, which have been released from the settlements and threaten to destroy the farmers’ crops.
Israel’s confiscation of the land was followed by its assertion of Wadi Qana’s status as a nature reserve, with reference to a law created under the British Mandate. No evidence has been presented to Palestinians regarding the existence of this law and the subsequent status of the land. Despite this, on July 21st, the Mayor of Deir Istiya received an official visit from Israeli nature reserve officers. They informed the Mayor once again that the area is classified as a nature reserve, and that it is therefore illegal to build any structures within the area. As a consequence, the aforementioned farmers have been threatened with the demolition of the aqueducts and fences which they now depend upon for their livelihood.
Regardless of the demolition orders’ roots apparently being in Wadi Qana’s status as a nature reserve, Israeli Authorities continue to refuse to take action in order to render such structures unnecessary, or indeed to avoid a potential environmental disaster in the valley.