Israel's vast separation wall slices Nazlet Isa off from one of the
richest water sources in the arid northern West Bank where the fight for water
is a fight for survival.
Lack of water severely affects Palestinian society and economy
Israel is believed to monopolise about 75% of Palestinian water resources
in a region where rainfall is infrequent and water a strategic asset.
In the agriculture-dependent Palestinian territories, hemmed in by Jewish settlements,
the lack of resources causes havoc for farmers, while pollution and inadequate
waste disposal create manifold sanitation and health problems.
In the northern West Bank town of Nazlet Isa, giant concrete slabs 10 metres
high - lambasted as an apartheid wall by the Palestinians - have left six homes
stranded on the Israeli side along with the rich underground aquifer.
A special system of pipes to access the water was finally built with Israeli
permission, but immediate access and control has passed into other hands.
Elisabeth Sime, a director of aid organisation CARE International in the Gaza
Strip and West Bank, said: "The route of the wall matches that
of water resources, the latter being conveniently located on the Israeli side."
The Palestinians are adamant that the wall - which they view as a land grab
designed to delimit the borders of their promised future state - was built deliberately
to siphon off the aquifer.
Israel says it was built for security reasons to prevent suicide bombers infiltrating
Israel or Jewish settlements.
But Hind Khury, a former Palestinian cabinet minister responsible for Jerusalem
and now the government's representative in Paris, charged that "with the
wall, the Israelis clearly sought to commandeer water resources."
No water, no life
"Without water, there is no life. Israeli policy has always been to push
Palestinians into the desert," he added.
Abdul Rahman Tamimi, director of the non-governmental Palestinian Hydrology
Group (PHG), said the coincidence of the route of the wall with the layout of
the region's aquifers was not by accident.
"The wall cuts some communities off from their only source of water, prevents
tanker trucks from getting around and puts up prices," he said.
In Qalqilya, in the northern West Bank, about 20 wells, or 30% of the town's
resources, were lost because of the wall, Tamimi says.
Israel's separation wall steals
arable Palestinain land
While agriculture accounts for nearly a third of Palestinian gross domestic product,
only 5%of Palestinian land is irrigated.
On the other hand, 70% of Israeli and Jewish settlement land is watered, even
if agriculture amounts to barely 2% of Israeli GDP.
"The fact that Israel confiscates and overexploits water affects every
sector of Palestinian economic life and causes problems for the chances of development
in the region and therefore chances of peace," Tamimi said.
More than 220 communities in the West Bank - nearly 320,000 people - are unconnected
to mains water.
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians therefore buy water from trucks - an
expense many can ill afford - to supplement local supplies that often fall woefully
short of requirements.
One such consumer is 76-year-old Nazmi Abdul Ghani. Clutching clumps of soil
and turning to the heavens, the grandfather of 100 is desperate. "I can't
go on like this. My land is parched and I'm ruined."
One of the respected of the northern West Bank village of Saida, he uses expensive
water tankers to irrigate his tomatoes, onions and potatoes.
"The Israelis stole our land and took our water," he rages.
In the small town of Attil, at least a third of the local drinking water is contaminated
by sewage and pesticides. Nine-year-old Fatima, her eyes misted with fever, routinely
Waste and faeces from neighbouring houses run down the hill and seep through
the floors and walls of Fatima's home. They slowly eat away at its foundations
and emit a strong stench.
"I often get stomach ache. I throw up. It's the same for all the children
here," she says looking feverishly at her mother Awa.
Doctor Hossam Madi says diarrhoea, gastroenteritis, fever, kidney failure,
infection and dermatological problems blight most Palestinian children and persist
into adulthood because of poor water supplies.
"The quality of water is getting worse and worse," said CARE's Sime.
Inadequate water affects the
health of Palestinian children
"A high proportion of new-born babies die of water-born infections. In the
long run, Israelis will be affected by the pollution of water in the Palestinian
In villages such as Jalbun, household, agricultural and industrial waste from
Israeli settlements speed up the process of water pollution.
Tamimi accuses some Israeli business people and settlers of dumping toxic waste
on Palestinian land in an act of "environmental terrorism".
Water supply problems faced by Palestinians are unfortunately typical of those
hoping to be dealt with at the World Water Forum, which opened in Mexico City
The March 16-22 forum hopes to help shape global strategy to improve distribution
and eradicate waste of the precious resource that increasingly leads to conflict.