Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Israel’s ‘dirty laundry’ in the West Bank

By The Palestine Monitor - December 05, 2017
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [environment] [Occupation]

Israel has been exploiting Palestinian land to treat its own waste while applying less stringent environmental laws in the West Bank, according to a report published today by Israeli human rights NGO B'Tselem.

The report, titled “Made in Israel: Exploiting Palestinian Land for Treatment of Israeli Waste” details how Israel has been transferring waste to treatment facilities in the West Bank, mostly private companies, which operate amid a lack of transparency and without Palestinians' knowledge.

Researchers found there are at least fifteen Israeli waste treatment facilities in the West Bank processing waste mostly produced in Israel. Six of these handle hazardous waste, such as electronic, medical, solvent, and oil waste. While all waste treatment comes with a degree of risk, hazardous waste can be particularly dangerous to both health and environment if not properly treated or regulated.

Two recent Israeli laws that pertain to waste treatment don't apply in the West Bank, where it is still regulated by older military orders. These are the Clean Air Law (2008), which introduced more advanced standards regarding air pollution compared to previous legislation; and the 2012 Environmental Protection Law (Pollutant Release and Transfer Reporting and Registration Obligations), which sets parameters for reporting companies' impact on the environment and measures taken to offset it.

“It seems that Israel considers transporting hazardous waste into the West Bank as transporting it into its own territory. At the same time, Israel takes advantage that the West Bank is not a sovereign territory and has left significant gaps in the legislation,” said Adam Aloni, B'Tselem's lead researcher on the project, speaking to members of the press at the report's launch. He added that these actions amount to de-facto annexation and that Palestinians “were never even informed that this is happening.”

While data is not available on the extent of the phenomena, a case in point is the Compost Or plant, which turns sewage sludge – sediments found at the bottom of water treatment tanks, made up of human feaces – into fertilizer. Israel recycles 65 percent of the sludge it produces. 60 percent of this is processed at the plant, transported from 25 municipalities located within Israel's 1967 borders. The rest is recycled in smaller facilities in Israel and the Golan Heights.

While sewage sludge is not considered hazardous waste, two similar facilities located inside Israel were shut in 2013 and 2014 after local residents protested about the stench they produced. The sludge from those plants was redirected to Compost Or, according to the report.

A few kilometers from the Compost Or factory is the Eco Medical plant, located in the Ma’ale Efrayim Industrial Zone. This is the largest Israeli facility to process infectious, biological and medical waste from hospitals and medical laboratories. According to the World Health Organization, risks related to the the handling of this waste include contamination of the environment and toxic effects.

Laxer regulations combined with tax breaks and subsidies provided by the government to settlement businesses make treating waste in the West Bank more profitable, the report argues.

The Basel convention, which Israel ratified in 1994, establishes principles for overseeing waste-management at inter-state level, including that hazardous waste can only be exported to countries that are able to manage it, after they are provided with detailed information about the waste and related risks, and with their consent. This cannot happen under military occupation, as settlement industrial zones are located in Area C, the 61 percent of the West Bank under Israeli control.

“This is what happens when millions of people live for fifty years without political rights,” said B'Tselem's executive director Hagai El-Ad, adding that such issues typically receive much media attention and sometimes opposition from local communities, who have the right to be informed of what goes on around them. “All of this process is happening above their heads, without them being asked, without them knowing,” El-Ad concluded.


Photo: an industrial zone in the West Bank, archive


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