Environmental Impunity: The impact of Settlements Waste Water Discharge in the West Bank

Living through the pandemic has highlighted to all of us how important a healthy and safe environment is. Many Palestinians in rural areas, already living under military occupation, are facing an additional environmental and health crisis as their land is being deliberately and steadily polluted.

In the West Bank, Palestinians are surrounded by more than 250 Israeli settlements and outposts, built in contravention of international law, with many discharging their sewage water on to Palestinian farmed land. It is estimated that, at least 50 settlements discharge approximately 35 million cubic meters of wastewater onto Palestinian land per year. This figure is the equivalent of 14,000 Olympic-size swimming pools, and increases each year with the continued construction and expansion of settlements. These expansion activities also create ‘facts on the ground’ and contributes to the de facto annexation of the West Bank territory.

The human impact of settlements’ wastewater discharge is substantial: Palestinian land is badly polluted, preventing landowners from using affected areas for agriculture or other livelihood purposes, thus curtailing economic opportunity. In addition, the prolonged exposure to sewage has serious health implications for the local population

To give you a concrete example, watch the video of Nahhalin, a Palestinian village located in Bethlehem and surrounded by settlements polluting their main source of water and agricultural land by discharging their wastewater for more than 20 years.

The intentional pollution of Palestinian land by Israeli settlements takes place in contravention of international humanitarian and human rights law. Furthermore, settlement growth and the threat of settler violence prevent Palestinian development, exacerbate Palestinian reliance on humanitarian aid and contribute to an increasingly coercive environment for affected communities, putting them at heightened risk of forcible transfer. For these reasons, the international community should not be a silent observer, but must instead take tangible steps to ensure that the occupying power complies with its obligations under international law.

To understand more about settler violence and its role in the coercive environment in the West Bank, you can also watch the following video on the case of Burin, a Palestinian village located in the Nablus governorate and surrounded by settlements.

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