Officials plan water plant to end crisis
Published Thursday 15/12/2011 (updated) 24/12/2011 13:31
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Head of the Palestinian Water Authority Shaddad al-Attili speaks at a water
conference in Israel organized by Friends of the Earth Middle East.
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — The Palestinian Water Authority is working to establish a major desalination plant by the Dead Sea, its chief has revealed.

The plan is designed to help ease the water crisis in the West Bank and Gaza by providing an extra 100 million cubic meters of water, Shaddad al-Attili said.

However it will stand or fall on the approval of a joint Israeli-Palestinian committee, he told Ma’an after attending a water conference in Israel organized by Friends of the Earth Middle East.

The water agency is hamstrung by the requirement set in the Oslo Accords that all projects go through the Joint Water Committee, in which Israel can veto any plans, he said.

Water is one of the six final status issues outlined in the 1993 accords to be resolved in a peace treaty with Israel, alongside borders, refugees, settlements, Jerusalem and security.

The Israeli-Palestinian JWC differs from other such committees in that it does not address shared water resources, but just the division of Palestinian resources in the West Bank.

Water crisis

Al-Attili said Palestine’s share of water has not changed in the near 20 years since the accords established the committee, despite high population growth.

“Israel is controlling 93 percent of the water in the region while Palestinians have only seven percent,” he said.

Al-Attili said that by the year 2000, Palestine should be using 200 million cubic meters of water per year, but 2010 water authority data shows Palestinians can access only 96 million cubic meters.

“We pay for drinking water. Water in Gaza is undrinkable because it’s salty and contaminated,” he said.

“When Gazans take showers they are soaked with salt and children’s skin has turned to blue due to chemicals,” Al-Attili added, without elaborating on the condition.

Control of resources

Al-Attili said Israel’s expansion of settlements, which monopolize the West Bank’s water supply, and Israel’s vetoes on Palestinian water projects contribute to the water crisis.

Israel’s military control over 60 percent of the West Bank, which prevents Palestinians from accessing rivers, springs and wells, exacerbates the problem, Al-Attili said.

Meanwhile, Israel has drilled deeper into West Bank aquifers than the shallow wells drilled by Palestinians before Israel’s occupation, draining much of the Palestinians’ water supply.

Al-Attili said the PA had a workable solution to the water crisis, in line with international law, under which Israel could build its own desalination plants to compensate for water supplies returned to Palestinians.

The authority is also working on plans to transfer water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea, which would replenish the Dead Sea as well as providing water for desalination.

He urged Israeli officials to discuss a solution to the crisis, based on the two-state model, adding that a Palestinian state could not be established without a solution to the division of water resources.

“We are looking for a solution to the conflict. No one wants this conflict,” Al-Attili said.

“Having a clean water is a basic right, but this right is taken from us. Can Israel accept that its neighbors have no water?”