Bethlehem/PNN/ 20 November 2018
The bleak situation in Palestine is noticeable on the streets. People throwing their rubbish out of their cars; walking in zigzags to avoid garbage on the footpath; and having to carry an empty packet for half an hour because rubbish bins are so far and few between. But this is only at a surface glance. The environmental problems of Palestine run far deeper than what meets the eye.
The ninth Palestinian Environmental Awareness and Education Conference,an initiative funded by the Evangelical Lutheran Church responsible for bringing pilgrims and visitors to the Holy Land, held in Jacir Palace spanning over two days attended by approximately 100 participants, saw professors, scientists, police, students and activists come together to discuss the environmental situation in Palestine today in the hopes that the local authority and the public can come together to create sustainable change. Work shops ranged from the impacts of pollution in Gaza to the burning of electronic waste.
The deputy of the Palestine Environment Authority, Jamil Al-Mutur wants Palestinians to support all action regarding the environment, developing policies to improve and maintain its natural surroundings. The Palestinian strategic plan active since 2017 hopes by 2022 to improve all regulations and rules to achieve the goal of improving the environment
The theme of this year’s forum was about “promoting environmental action in Palestine”, with the speakers sharing insights on the problems and the causes, but more importantly – the plans and decisions that need to be made to ensure the improvement and success of the Palestinian environment.
Executive director from the Environmental Education Center, Simon Awad, speaks to PNN about the issues here. He simplifies the causes of the waste problems into three main categories. First and foremost, the Israeli Occupation, which is making it difficult to create sustainable and efficient dumpsites, on top of the fact that they send a lot of their waste to dump sites in Palestinian land. The waste that is dumped is not separated cleanly nor correctly, often meaning that the land, water and agriculture become contaminated by the toxic waste which creates pressure on local authorities.
Secondly, he says that the capacity of local authorities in Palestine is extremely limited. “There needs to be greater capacity for municipalities to deal with environmental issues”.
And lastly, Awad feels that the public needs to be aware of the environmental factors that affect their daily lives. Public awareness and education of waste, proper disposal and understanding its effects on the health of the land and the people.
On an global platform, Palestine has joined 13 international agreements concerning nature and climate change. However, the development and clean up of the environment must be a joined effort from all sectors of society within Palestine – the public, the private and the individual. The overall message from the conference was that society needs to proactively implement the tools, mechanisms and initiatives to secure the success of the environment and its people.
With a nation so proud of its land, waste management must be spearheaded with serious practical and force. As one comment from the audience at the conference said, “a crime against the environment is a crime against a human being”.