UN Rebukes Israel’s destruction of Palestinian Water Cisterns
Mr. Gaylard remarked on 1 February 2011, “It is difficult to understand the reasoning behind the destruction of basic rain water collection systems, some of them very old, which serve marginalized rural and herder Palestinian communities where water is already scarce and where drought is an ever-present threat.”
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) documented that in 2010 Israel demolished 27 water cisterns and other rainwater collection systems in the West Bank. Moreover, OCHA recorded that 15 water springs that connect to the Mountain Aquifer, the sole source of water available to Palestinians in the West Bank, were also destroyed. Israel takes more than 80 percent of water collected by the Aquifer, leaving Palestinians with less than 20 percent.
Communities throughout the West Bank have come to rely on such basic water collection mechanisms, such as holes in the ground, due to the economic unsustainability of tankered water.
Human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International, have documented the untenable nature of water tankers, as they are forced to take circuitous routes to avoid military checkpoints and Israeli only roads that fragment the West Bank. These detours have resulted in steep increase in the prices of water.
Palestinian residents of the West Bank are required to acquire a permit for any structure in Area C, including water cisterns and holes. Permits are nearly impossible to obtain.
Despite these stringent permit criteria, the Alternative Information Center points out that destruction of water infrastructure is in violation of an Israeli-Palestinian joint agreement from 2001, the “Joint Declaration for Keeping the Water Infrastructure out of the Cycle of Violence.”
The joint declaration states, “The Israeli and Palestinian sides view the water and waste water sphere as a most important matter and strongly oppose any damage to water and wastewater infrastructure.”
According to Dr. Shaddad Attili, the Minister of the Palestinian Water Authority, water cisterns do not require a permit from the Israeli Civil Administration. Nevertheless, the Government of Israel has increased demolitions of cisterns.
“In addition to preventing the rehabilitation of Palestinian water cisterns, particularly in Area C, the Government of Israel has recently intensified its campaign of destroying these same cisterns. The rehabilitation of water cisterns does not require prior approval from the Joint Water Committee (JWC), nor does it require a construction permit from the Israeli Civil Administration,” Dr. Attili stated on 31 January.