Environmental Protection brings Israelis and Palestinians together

Nahal Makoch

by Sharon Udasin, Jerusalem Post

Trash issues have trumped the conflict, as settlers and Palestinians band together to protest a new German funded landfill near a nature reserve in Area C of the West Bank.

The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) is leading the battle against the dump, because along with the settlers and Palestinians, it believes that the landfill is environmentally problematic.

The Binyamin Regional Council is also upset that its settlements can not use the landfill, located in their region, precisely at a time when the state has mandated the closure of the dump where they now deposit their trash.

Troubled by the dump’s vulnerable location and its inaccessibility to all, this unusual group of protesters plans to submit an official objection to its construction to the Civil Administration on Sunday.

Led by Roee Simon, SPNI Judea and Samaria coordinator, the effort includes representatives from the local Kaabene Beduin tribe, the Palestinian villages of Ramun and Nu’eima, the Israeli settlements of Mikhmas and Rimonim, the Municipal and Environmental Association of Judea and Samaria and the Binyamin Regional Council, which cover 44 settlements in southern Samaria.

Because the project was officially published on March 8, members of the public have 60 days from that date to file objections to the plans, prior to a public hearing, explained a representative from the German government-owned development bank, Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW), which is funding the project.

The future landfill is slated to be located near Rimonim Junction just south of Road 449 and just east of Road 458 (Kavish Alon) in Area C of the West Bank, steps north of the Nahal Makoch Nature Reserve in the north Judean Desert, according to the SPNI.

The nature reserve bears “unique characteristics” due to its location on the border of the central mountain ridge and the Jordan Valley, the stream itself begins in the Beit El mountains near the highest peak in Samaria – Mount Baal-Hazor – and takes “breathtaking meanderings” southeast until it crosses Kavish Alon, an SPNI report explained.

Within the riverbed at the reserve are many caves with rare conditions that allow bats to hibernate, the SPNI report added.

Meanwhile, many archeological sites are also found in the reserve, where various episodes of history associated with the region have unfolded – the land is in close proximity to major historical routes of religious forefathers to Jerusalem and to Jericho.

SPNI listed the Nahal Makoch Nature Reserve as number 90 in its “Israel Planning and Building Threats to Open Spaces: Annual Report for 2013,” that the organization released in January. Not only do environmentalists fear harm to the sanctity of the reserve itself, but also to the groundwater and the stream, as the area is a “hydrologically sensitive” region, according to SPNI.

“We attach great importance to the cooperation of all the bodies which will reach agreements and an effective solution to the problem of solid waste disposal in the space of Binyamin to Ramallah,” said the SPNI statement, drafted by Simon and signed on by all of the objectors.

“Damage to assets of nature and heritage is likely to be devastating to the valuable legacy that is found in the reserve and to our future,” SPNI said, particularly forbidden will be the trash from the Israeli settlements of the area.

As there are only about four legal dumps in the West Bank – only two of which can absorb Israeli garbage – trash from the nearby settlements will be trucked to faraway destinations at high costs both financially and environmentally, in terms of truck exhaust fumes.

“There is a problem in Judea and Samaria with taking care of evacuating garbage in Arab villages and communities and the settlements,” Simon told The Jerusalem Post.

While SPNI sees the criticality in establishing a new landfill for the region, particularly due to the fact that illegal dumping sites plague the area, the organization and its co-protesters stress that the new site must be at an alternative location and accessible to all.

“We are promoting and saying that we see a great importance in determining an organized and administrated site for waste disposal in the space between Binyamin and the Ramallah district,” the objection statement said. “The problem of waste disposal sites operating without legal permits [pirate sites] is a recognized issue and is well known to have devastating and complex consequences within open spaces.”

This article is an excerpt from the Jerusalem Post. For the full article, please click here