Pollution is everywhere, generated by everyone, and affecting everyone’s life. Eco-activists all over the world, together with government agencies, work to combat it by monitoring polluters, promoting legislation, and providing creative solutions to complex situations.
One would hope to find the same activity in Israel, but unfortunately, this is not the case. The majority of eco-activists in Israel choose not to operate over the Green Line, neglecting to address the eco-needs of the people there. Some of the challenges in Judea and Samaria are unique to the vicinity, while other hazards are common everywhere. However, the lack of suitable legislation and enforcement have resulted in irreversible damage to the land, affecting everyone’s life.
These are just some examples of environmental disasters in Judea and Samaria:
The Palestinians have established unauthorized, makeshift dump sites, one of them at Silwad, near Beit El. Trash was dumped in the open here and not properly treated, contaminating the earth, destroying the landscape, and damaging ancient olive groves. The refuse seeped into the earth, contaminating the ground water under it. Some trash was burnt, generating air pollution.
Improvised charcoal production plants, found primarily in the Jenin area, have been a hazard for decades, but more recently, their heavy air pollution has turned the lives of citizens in the vicinity into a nightmare. “People who live 400 meters away from these plants look out the window, see a black cloud moving towards them and have nowhere to hide or go,” commented one of the residents. Tests conducted by experts show that there is an abnormal concentration of delicate breathable particles 37% of the time. An assessment submitted to the IDF and to the Ministry of Environmental protection stated that: “Exposure to these particles can hinder lung function and is especially dangerous to those who suffer from respiratory complications, which may lead to subsequent hospitalization and even death.” Residents around these charcoal plants suffer tremendously. The air pollution affects everyone, and life expectancy among local Palestinian residents is just 40 years, but the issue is considered sensitive because the plants provide a livelihood to Palestinian families.
Pirate stone quarries, which can be found all over Judea and Samaria, are randomly situated with no prior planning and with complete disregard for the landscape or the environment. The dust generated by stone-grinding is a source of air pollution, while ground water can be contaminated by metal particles from machinery used to cut into hillsides. Specific metal machinery should be used, but there is no supervising entity to enforce the necessary protocols. These quarries are causing irreversible damage to the land.
Yarok Achshav, Green Now, is the only non-governmental organization dedicated exclusively to the issue of environmental hazards everywhere in Israel. The group was established in 2008 to provide a response to ecological and environmental problems, and to preserve the nature, landscape, and heritage of the Land of Israel.
Green Now provides legal advice and services in the face of environmental hazards, and promotes pertinent legislation. They are the only organization that runs a public petition hotline, enabling anyone who encounters an eco-hazard to turn to them and receive the required support. They also organize environmentally-related educational and cultural activities and create and promote ecological projects in the community.
Green Now believes that pollution and contamination have no boundaries, and that environmental activists should be everywhere. “Green Now has chosen to address issues that no one else will touch upon,” says Acting Director, Ofer Inbar. “Therefore, the majority of our activities are focused in Judea and Samaria. We address issues that affect all populations, including the Palestinians, and have attempted to cooperate with them in various ventures, such as educational programs and eco-projects. We offered assistance in planning the infrastructure of Rawabi, the new Palestinian city under construction, to ensure that construction meets the proper standards. In every case, we found an utter unwillingness to cooperate. The Palestinians have made an all-encompassing decision not to cooperate with Israelis.”
Green Now has exerted legal and political pressure on the various governmental agencies responsible for addressing these eco-hazards, and their activity has generated results. The makeshift dump site at Silwad was closed by the authorities, the trash was buried, and the site was covered with earth. Today, greenery has returned.
The 400 improvised charcoal production plants are a more complex matter. In June 2011, eleven of them were shut down, but they have since resumed their activity. Green Now will continue to pursue the case through legal venues. Unfortunately, the quarries still present a grave hazard, and are not properly monitored or controlled.
There is still much to be done over the Green Line, both in terms of eco-activity and many other issues, none of which are properly addressed because of an imaginary border.