Posted by: friendsoftheearthmiddleeast | December 13, 2012

Protecting Ground Water study tour in Israel and Palestine: providing deeper insights of the region’s groundwater situation

On October 22nd, FoEME’s Protecting Ground Water project team launched the first day of the Protecting Ground Water Project’s study tour with the participation of a delegation from the Malaga Municipality in Spain, a partner to the project.  This study tour follows on the recent FoEME staff to Malaga municipality this year. The purpose of the study tour was to broaden the networking between the Mediterranean basin municipalities and to share knowledge and experiences of protecting groundwater.

The tour officially opened with warm welcomes as well as a presentation about FoEME’s trans-boundary work, the current ground water situation in the region and the political obstacles of protecting the ground water. Also, an interesting introduction of GIS followed – an online module that locates, monitors and analyzes hazards to ground water in communities where ground water pollution is at risk.

Introduction to GIS by GWP project coordinators

Introduction to GIS by GWP project coordinators

The next day the study tour aimed at viewing hazards to groundwater in the West Bank. One such imminent threat is found in the Hebron stonecutting district. This industry causes problems as the industry’s stone dust mixes with water, creating sludge that cannot be processed in the municipality’s water treatment plant. Another problem is that the waste water amounts to 1250 CM/day and the capacity of the water treatment plant is 150 CM/day. This causes blockages and leads to frequent flooding of untreated water in Hebron neighborhoods. Another example, which our study tour visited, was found in the community Yatta.  Sewage, chemicals and solid waste, heavily pollute Yatta’s spring as it is directly dumped into it.

The heavily polluted spring in Yatta

The heavily polluted spring in Yatta

Overview of Battir and the planned path of the Separation barrier

Overview of Battir and the planned path of the Separation barrier

Another focal point of the tour was our visit to the village of Battir. This village hosts an incredible amount of cultural, historical and environmental heritage with its 2500 year old irrigation systems and over 4000 year old agricultural terraces. However, this area is in great danger of devastation. The planned construction of the Separation Barrier through Battir would destroy the unique landscape and strangle the socioeconomic foundations of Battir’s farmers, as their access to their land would be heavily limited. Our guide and FoEME’s Good Water Neighbors Project Coordinator, Mohammed Obidallah, stressed the urgency of this matter as construction of the wall has alreadybegun in the neighboring village of Walaja.

Crossing the border to Israel, on the third day, to view the water situation, was less grave. We first paid a visit to the 25 million years old ancient beauty of Soreq cave, which is highly sensitive to external exposure and illustrates the wonder of the shared mountain aquifer and the vulnerability for pollution.

Upon the visit to the anaerobic solid waste disposal facility in Emek Hefer the bizarre contrast of water treatment between West Bank and Israel gained in strength.  How does it work when one of the world’s leading facilities in wastewater reuse, in Emek Hefer, is operating next to one of the most polluted springs, in area of shared ground water? FoEMEs Protecting Ground Water project highlights these issues, that ground water knows no borders and that sustainable solutions only can come through transboundary teamwork.

Group picture of PGW Study Tour participants

Group picture of PGW Study Tour participants

Without a question participants left with a feeling of lessons learned and strong connections made.  Bringing together regional and international participants to view on site what the situation is and the necessity for regional cooperation in ground water protection proved essential to energizing the projects participants towards the next stage of the project.

This blog was contributed by FoEME’s research intern Kristina Dobricic, with contributions from FoEME’s PGW team. Kristina is based in our Bethlehem office.

For more information on FoEME’s visit to Malaga, view the video on YouTube. More information on Friends of the Earth Middle East can be found on our website.

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