RAMALLAH – Ghassan al-Najjar, a Palestinian farmer from the northern West Bank village of Burin, has been struggling to obtain sufficient irrigation water for his cultivation land.
With summer approaching, al-Najjar believes that the strict Israeli measures in the remote villages as well as the consequences of COVID-19 have led to the scarcity of water resources for Palestinians.
Although Nablus municipality supplies al-Najjar’s land with water twice a week, al-Najjar and other Palestinian farmers are asking to increase the quantity of irrigation water in the hot summer months to avoid crop failure.
Until that demand is met, the farmer, who owns a 10-donum (or 1 hectare) farm in the village, is forced to buy water four days a week to irrigate his crops.
“I spend about 30 U.S. dollars every day to buy water for irrigation. Coronavirus has negatively affected our cultivation season in light of the lockdown that prevents us from reaching our lands and taking care of them,” explained the father of five, while he was watering his harvests.
Nevertheless, this is not the only problem that al-Najjar faces. Israel controls some parts of the West Bank (Area C) and has tightened its grip as a result of the pandemic that erupted in mid-March including preventing recently Palestinian farmers from digging wells, citing security measures.
Area C, which takes up over 60 percent of the West Bank’s area of 5,655 square km, is under Israeli control according to the Oslo Accords, signed between the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Israeli government in 1993.
At that time, West Bank was divided into three areas: Area A under Palestinian control, Area B under control of both sides, and Area C.
Shady Ghassan, 40-year-old Palestinian farmer, also suffers from the water shortage.
However, he decided to take matters into his own hands, buying a tank of water to overcome the ongoing water shortage in his village.
“The villagers have been suffering from water problems for years because of the Israeli measures, but the situation has deteriorated recently under the spread of the pandemic that made people consume more water,” said Ghassan.
Several days ago, the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) said in a statement that Israel significantly reduced the amount of water allotted to the West Bank districts of Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin and Hebron, during the past few days.
“We are under great pressure to manage and distribute the available amount of water in a fair manner,” PWA leader Mazen Ghneim told Xinhua.
He pointed out that the demand for water has increased in the summer season by nearly 30 percent compared with the winter.
Therefore, the cultivation areas, especially in the northern West Bank, have seen an increase in the water consumption of 50 percent in the summer.
In comparison, the southern governorates need to increase the water supply by 17 to 22 percent, according to the PWA leader.
“Israel controls about 85 percent of the Palestinian water sources,” the official said, adding that “it denied the supply of sufficient water to the Palestinians despite the spread of COVID-19.”
He noted that Israel uses the water resources as a tool to restrict the Palestinians, calling on the international communities to pressure the “occupation” to abide by the international laws.
“The water crisis is affecting most districts of the West Bank as the summer’s approaching,” Ramallah-based water expert Abdul-Rahman al-Tamimi told Xinhua.
He said that the complicated political situation caused by the Palestinian-Israeli conflict denied the population from accessing water resources.
Al-Tamimi stressed that the Palestinians could overcome this crisis by finding a final political solution with Israel through brokered-negotiations.
“Only then, the Palestinians will have their own decision to extract and distribute water and benefit as much as possible from the rainwater by building dams devoted to agriculture, and taking advantage of the water of the valleys, especially the Jordan River,” he explained.
The Palestinian expert warns that the coming years may be “bad and scarce” if the water issue continues with the increase of population and urban growth in Palestine, the risks of declining agricultural areas and a decrease in the quantities of water allocated for drinking.