#CAGPalastine Contributor by Amb. Alaa Chatila and reviewed by Amb. Bara’ Hamallah
“In the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought- 17 June, it is indispensable to highlight the major causes, mainly stemming from human irresponsible practices and climate changes, and most importantly the dilemma of Israeli occupation, currently putting Palestine in a critical situation, clarified by the deterioration and infertility of around 50% of its land. Apparently, the drylands dominate the majority of Palestine as a country situated in the Mediterranean dry part of the world. However, what hugely contributes to escalating the problem, are the scarcity of water and rapid demographic population growth, besides the Israeli occupation that makes it further challenging.
As a fundamental factor of the drought expansion in Palestine, the Israeli occupation is intermittently destroying agricultural lands, following a systematic tree cutting down. Since the year 2000, more than one and a half million trees have been cut by the Israeli settlers, otherwise constructing settlements after deforestation. Furthermore, it is significantly criticized that Israel refuses to abide by the International Agreements and Conventions regarding water, which is already unfair and compelling. To illustrate, the Israeli occupation, who was plundering water, controlling its resources, and depriving the Palestinians of it before Oslo, has been similarly doing so after Oslo in light of the Palestinian-Israeli partnership and the international community accepts or reacts blindly to those violations in order to, ironically, boost the peace process. As the recent studies indicate, 85% of the groundwater- approximately 500-600 million cubic meters- is dominated by the Israeli forces as well as 70% of their settlements are located on the eastern reservoir basin in the West Bank and 45% of them are built on critical places with regards to the mountain water reservoir. According to the World Health Organization, the daily needed water is 100 liters for each person, which must be available at affordable prices, and 30 liters for each person in emergency and disaster conditions as the Red Cross Organization stated. However, the Palestinian citizen water portion is approximately 30-60 liters every day whereas the Israeli citizen gets twice this figure. According to the estimates of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the average per capita consumption in Israel per day is 353 liters, and this number increases to about 900 liters per day for the Israeli settler in the West Bank. In Gaza Strip, in addition, the is a severe deficiency in drinkable water quantities mainly due to the Israeli policies, namely the efficient wells that are drilled to attract groundwater to them and prevent it from reaching Gaza. Likewise, the flow of the Gaza valley that was ceased completely by the occupation because of the rapid population growth. These harmful damaging practices act very prejudicially by creating a powerful problem in the availability of water and impeding both land productivity and sustainable development.
In addition to the previously mentioned related occupation issues, numerous detrimental human activities are addressed as other causes of desertification. The reckless intensive exploitation of agricultural lands, deforestation, chemicals overusing, as well as poor irrigation systems, are some illustrations of humans irresponsibility. For instance, Gaza Strip is one of the most regions in the world with a high rate of population density, and is inhabited by about one million and seven hundred thousand people( 1,700,000 ) over an area of no more than 360 square kilometers. Thus, its residents suffer from small areas and overcrowded buildings in addition to weak natural resources, which warn of a serious disaster on several levels, foremost among which are education, health, and work.
Most importantly, climate variation is one of the most dangerous indications that threatens the entire world. This can be exemplified by precipitation decrease accompanied by average temperature rise that undisputedly results in higher water demand, and eventually, water insecurity. To exemplify, the recent studies covering Palestine expect a 20% decrease in rainfall amounts by the year 2050.
Significantly, Palestine is highly vulnerable to climate change, since Palestinian potentials to plan and adopt environmental responses, either for short or long terms, are still limited in consequence of harsh livelihood socioeconomic and political circumstances, poor resources, migration, and inferior governments.
All previous ecological hazards and indications pose enormous queries and anticipations on local and global levels, and urgently require fundamental cooperative efforts towards realistic sustainable solutions.”