Environment: Water

Environmental Crisis: US & Palestine

Access to clean and reliable water supply is a key determinant of a population’s survival, health, economic prosperity and general well being.

Denial of water rights and infrastructure occupy human rights activists and organizations here in the U.S. and Palestine. This section examines and links three stories in the US – Detroit, Flint and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in NC and 2 stories in Palestine – denial of water access in Israel’s occupied West Bank and Gaza.

DETROIT. Examples include the shut off of Detroit Michigan water for residents who could not afford to pay the increasing cost of water. These are the same residents who are reeling from unemployment and underemployment in the double digits, in a city that has lost major industries, whose property value loss results in gains for the rich who are moving to buy cheap and gentrify the city.   The UN Human Rights investigated team declared the water shut off a human rights violation.[1]

FLINT, MI. Flint is another human rights nightmare. Facing bankruptcy, the Governor appointed an Emergency Manager who took over government oversight from the democratically elected government. To save money, he diverted Flint’s water supply from its cleaner source to Flint’s contaminated rivers, causing untold resident illness, especially acute among its children.[2]

NC – ATLANTIC COAST PIPELINE (ACP). NC Governor Cooper and Dept of Environmental Quality have just issued a permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to proceed through North Carolina.[3]  The NC Dept. of Environmental Quality granted a 401 Water Quality Certification for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, in response to an offer from Duke Energy of payment for mitigation and solar funding.[4] During the public comment period and hearings for the critical 401 Water Quality Certificate last summer, over six thousand individuals and organizations submitted comments on the wide range of damage the pipeline would cause. None of the information submitted in response to DEQ’s repeated “additional information requests” to ACP, LLC creates a credible picture of a pipeline constructed across hundreds of streams, wetlands, and rivers without causing erosion and sedimentation, damage to fisheries, drinking water supplies, recreational waters and sensitive wetlands.

Therese Vick of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, goes further: “The agency seems to have been just leading keeping us busy, with repeated meetings an “listening sessions,” where overwhelming opposition to the ACP was clear. We know there are staff at DEQ who are taking their job to protect the public and its natural resources seriously, but the Governor and leadership at DEQ are willing to make a deal that does NOTHING to reduce the harm to communities of color and low income or on hundreds of landowners. The population close to the pipeline is a high as 98% Native American. This is one of the biggest Environmental Justice atrocities in NC history, perhaps the biggest!”[5]

PALESTINE AND OCCUPIED TERRITORIES. We turn to related human rights violations in Palestine in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza, verified by Amnesty International UK, Haaretz and B’tselem, Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.   All have documented Israeli government policies that deny Palestinians their rights to adequate, safe water supplies that hinder social and economic development and adequate standard of living and to food, health and work.

WEST BANK. Haaretz has reported extensively on Israel’s use of water as a tool in the West Bank occupied territories to dominate Palestinians by denying Palestinians control over their water source by developing its own infrastructure, and denying or reducing access to its own water resources since its occupation of the West Bank in 1967. As only one example, Ramallah has more rainfall than London, but Israel’s national water company, Mekorot has restricted access. Salfit sits atop an underground wealth of water, but the city’s residents are forbidden from accessing it, and have been reduced to 30% of their water allowance.

GAZA. After suffering three carpet bombing attacks, Gaza is unable to replentish its water source and supply; it suffers merciless contamination of its coastal aquifer that is beyond rehabilitation options, along with power outages that interfere with water supply. According to the World Health Organization, Gazan’s daily water consumption is woefully below acceptable minimum standards, and the water that is consumed is unfit for drinking according to residents. Fuel shortages have shut down Gaza’s power plant causing raw sewage to flood neighborhoods and leak into homes. B’tselem and other human rights organizations have continue to demand Israel allow materials and equipment to be brought into Gaza for the purpose of restoring and developing Gaza’s water and wastewater treatment systems.. But Israel continues to blockade building and construction materials into Gaza – further making Gaza uninhabitable according to the UN, and a death trap for its residents.[6]

Additional links:

https://ejatlas.org/conflict/israeli-industries-polluting-palestinian-city-of-tulkarm

https://palestinevideo.wordpress.com/2010/08/30/israels-geshuri-chemical factories-in-tulkarem/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2000/12/30/volatile-chemistry-in-the-west-bank/426579f5-3c39-4c84-9095-4d016126fccf/?utm_term=.d80e12102198

https://palsolidarity.org/2015/04/one-person-shot-at-protest-against-israels-cancer-causing-chemical-plants-in-tulkarem-2/

https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20140919-tulkarem-chemical-factory-exploits-palestinian-labour-and-health/

https://stopthewall.org/pt-br/node/9815


[1] See http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/6/25/detroita-s-disconnectionofwaterservicesviolateshumanrightssaysun.html and https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/25/un-detroit-human-rights-taps.

[2] See https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/04/20/465545378/lead-laced-water-in-flint-a-step-by-step-look-at-the-makings-of-a-crisis

[3] See http://www.newsobserver.com/news/business/article196849654.html

[4] https://deq.nc.gov/news/press-releases/2018/01/26/state-issues-major-water-permit-atlantic-coast-pipeline-project

[5] See https://www.indyweek.com/news/archives/2018/01/26/deq-slated-to-issue-water-quality-permit-for-atlantic-coast-pipeline

[6] See https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/david-cronin/water-apartheid-gaza-and-flint and https://www.btselem.org/gaza_strip/20140209_gaza_water_crisis

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