Continued Water Shortages in the West Bank: Another Form of Apartheid
“Water is central to the wellbeing of people and the planet” - Ban Ki Moon – UN Secretary General
Water is a precious and essential commodity in daily life, indeed our very existence depends upon it; this was formally recognized by the United Nations General Assembly in 2010 who stated that access is a fundamental right. However; this right is ignored by the Israeli State as it continues to exert its control over the water supply in the West Bank, restricting access to water in areas during the summer period to just once a week; making life unbearable for the inhabitants and impacting local farmer’s ability to irrigate their crops, thus resulting in difficult decisions being made regarding the futility of planting. This consequentially affects their income in a negative manner, as their harvests shrink. This also results in inflated prices of local produce, demonstrating that none in the community are left unaffected by this tactical assault by the occupying power.
It is important to acknowledge that the water shortage is not due to natural environmental conditions, as both the Mountain Aquifer and the Jordan River are in the region of the West Bank and rather the issue lies with the Israeli government having control over 70% of the former and forbidding Palestinians to extract water from the latter. Since the Oslo Accords; which commenced in 1993, Palestinians ability to access water sources has become increasingly difficult, with studies suggesting that locals access less water today than they did 20 years ago. Some Palestinians are only able to make use of 20 litres a day per capita; far below the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommendation of 100 litres; which is vital for maintaining good health. Palestinians are forced to buy bottles of mineral water and to arrange for tanks to be bought to their homes with significant financial implications, that makes this impossible for some families.
Due to the restricted harvest, locals are forced to buy produce brought in by the Israeli State; thus perpetuating the total control Israel exercises over them. The water issue has been recently covered by Charlotte Silver in the ‘Electronic Intifada’, who refers to Clemens Messerschmid, a German hydrologist who has worked with Palestinians for 2 decades on the subject and refers to the situation as a “hydro-apartheid”. Messerschmid acknowledges how Palestinians, along with being subject to Israel’s control of the water; are also forbidden from drilling wells on their land and find any reservoirs they have built to be systematically destroyed by the Israeli army.