By Eid Yasin

QALQILYA, March 24, 2018 (WAFA) – Israeli settlements in the Qalqilya district, northwest of the West Bank, are the main cause of environmental pollution, which results mainly from wastewater and sewage that flows from these settlements into Palestinian agricultural land nearby. This has destroyed crops and diffused diseases and epidemics in the area.

Palestinians officials say the illegal settlement of Sha’arei Tikva, established in 1981 on the land of Azzun Atma village, south of Qalqilya, is considered the main cause of environmental pollution in the area. Sewage from the settlement flows into the agricultural lands of the villages of Beit Amin and Azzun Atma, causing damage to agricultural land. Sewage also floods from the settlement into the rich underground water reserves in the area.

Sewage also floods from Alfei Menashe settlement through a closed pipeline into the sewage pumping station at Eyal kibbutz inside Israel, passing through the nearby village of Hable, to the south of Qalqilya. However, wastewater leaks from the pipeline into the village and nearby Qalqilya city, creates a lake of wastewater that is destructive to environment and health.

Nazmi al-Sheikh, head of the Beit Amin village council, says that the sewage flowing from of the Israeli settlements in the area has badly affected agricultural land of the villages of Saniriya and Beit Amin, causing heavy losses to farmers.

“The valley has become a health hazard,” he said. “The flow of wastewater has caused serious damage to the three area aquifers: Bir al-Hamra, Bir al-Abeet and Bir Salman. Unpleasant smells have been emanating from that area as a result,” says al-Sheikh.

Director of the Department of Health and Environment in Qalqilya Governorate, Mohammed Abu al-Sheikh, said: “The [Israeli] occupiers deal with the West Bank as an open field where they can do anything with it. What is not allowed inside Israeli is allowed in the West Bank. This includes the pollution of air by poisonous gases emitted from various Israeli industries scattered across the West Bank, in addition to the flow of wastewater from the settlements, military bases and factories into the Palestinian land and water wells. Israel further dumps hazardous waste in various Palestinian sites.”

He continues, “According to international law, Israel as an occupying power is obliged to enact special environmental laws to protect the people and natural resources.”

Director of the office of the Environmental Authority in Qalqilya and Tulkarm, Issam Qasem, says the distinctive location of Qalqilya district at the geographical center of Palestine, and its proximity to what is known as the “Armistice Line” has made it a hub of Israeli violations.

“Qalqilya has been suffering from the repeated attacks of the Israeli occupation. After the occupation forces took over large tracts of land of the governorate for construction of settlements, it [Israel] built the Apartheid Wall, which caused a new blow to our people,” he adds.

“We know that the occupying state does not care for international or even environmental laws. However, all these violations will one day be used by the political circles at all levels, including at the International Criminal Court.”