- Title: WEST BANK: Lack of rain aggravates water shortage for Palestinians
- Date: 4th July 2011
- Summary: CHILD STANDING NEAR SHEEP
- Embargoed: 19th July 2011 13:00
- Location: West bank, West bank
- Country: Palestinian Territories
- Topics: Disasters,Environment
- Reuters ID: LVAB3F01K18M3QNLNSEXVD922EF0
- Story Text: Low rainfall aggravates Palestinian water woes.
Land and taps have run dry in the West bank city of Hebron and the surrounding area, with lack of rain making water shortages worse for Palestinians already struggling with limited supplies.
Hebron -- the second biggest city in the Palestinian territories -- has no running water for much of the summer.
Farmer Yasser Suleiman is from the southern hills of the Hebron area. He says this year they are facing particularly severe water shortages, which has taken its toll on his crops.
"This year we planted only a quarter of the land because of water shortages. The vegetables are thirsty. The courgette (zucchini) plants are not getting a quarter of the water they need. If they were to get the water they need, they would produce more," Suleiman said.
Water has always been a scare commodity in the Middle East and is one of the core issues facing Palestinian and Israeli peace negotiators.
While the region often experiences summer water shortages, residents say the dry spells have been longer and rainfall more scarce in recent years.
The daily routine for many people in the Hebron area of the West Bank involves filling water bottlers and containers from a natural spring on privately owned land in the hills south of Hebron city.
"We do not have enough water so we come to the spring to fill up on water," Mamoun Othman said as he filled his bottles.
Othman Amro, whose family own the water spring, tries to help people in the area have access to natural water sources.
"This spring depends on the rain, and the amount of water from rain is low. If we compare the amount of water between now and past years, this year we have a fifth of the amount we used to have in the past. Today, around a fifth of the land is planted and the rest is not planted due to a lack of water," Amro explains.
Israel controls much of the occupied West Bank's supplies, pumping water from an aquifer that bridges Israel and the West Bank and then selling some back to the Palestinians, quotas agreed under the 1993 Oslo Accords which rights groups say have not been increased in line with Palestinian population growth.
Hebron Mayor Khaled Osaily said the situation in the city and surrounding villages had become dire.
"The average amount of water that reached Hebron during the month of June was about 13,609 cubic metres (per day), this means less than 50 litres for each resident. This is a very small amount because according to the World Bank, each West bank resident should get 150 litres (per day). In order to reach this amount we need three times the quantity we have," Osaily told Reuters.
Amnesty International report from 2009 said Israeli restrictions prevented Palestinians from receiving enough water in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The report said Israel's daily water consumption per capita was four times higher than that in the Palestinian territories.
Israel argues that it has kept to its agreement under the Oslo accords but Palestinians failed to recycle their water and failed to distribute what they receive evenly.
The Abu Kheir Palestinian Bedouin community lives in hills near Hebron city. The head of the community, Shuaib Salameh, said Israel often takes supplies meant to reach their community and others in the West Bank and diverts it to controversial nearby Jewish settlements.
The community now owns a water tanker which the Palestinian community fills monthly.
"This water as you see -- it was hard to get even this small amount of water, which we have to put into containers which are transported by donkey," said Salameh.
The 2009 Amnesty report described how Palestinians in the West Bank relied on water from tankers that were forced to take long detours to avoid Israeli military checkpoints and roads off-limits to Palestinians.
The situation had led to steep increases in water prices, the report said.
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