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Status of the Environment in the Occupied Palestinian Territory
submitted by This Week In Palestine

Published by the Applied Research Institute-Jerusalem (ARIJ)
Bethlehem, 2007, 225 pages.

Palestine, as it stands today, consists of two physically separated land masses, namely the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip, with a total area of 5,661 km² and 362 km², respectively. The once-fertile heights of Palestine have been denuded; barren lands and deserts have replaced forests and green plains. Desertification and soil erosion are evident, particularly in the eastern slopes of the West Bank. The Dead Sea has sunk so low it is now two separate seas and still dropping.

Palestine is characterized by the presence of two contradictory planning schemes that aim to exploit its natural resources to serve two peoples: the endogenous Palestinian population and the Israeli settlers and army, which have been controlling the area since 1967. The fragile Palestinian environment has been the first casualty of this reality. It has been exposed to pressures ensuing from the practices of the Palestinian population, on the one hand, and the practices of the Israeli occupation, on the other hand, which have significantly contributed to changing the environmental features of the occupied Palestinian Territory (oPT).

In 1997, the Applied Research Institute-Jerusalem (ARIJ) published a comprehensive environmental profile for the West Bank entitled, “The Status of the Environment in the West Bank.” The profile was prepared based on sound environmental information integrated into an Environmental Information System (EIS). It also included an overall description of the state of the environment and the actions that should be considered to protect it.

The EIS was transferred to the Palestinian National Authority to provide it with the basic information needed to develop national strategies and policies, in order to foster sustainable development in the oPT. Accordingly, ARIJ decided to take the initiative of harmonizing the new and updated physical, environmental and socioeconomic data available in its databank, bridging the gaps to update the EIS, and providing a comprehensive assessment of the state of the environment in the oPT. This time the assessment was carried out for both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, in order to bring into the forefront the political realities that have impacted the potential for sustainable development in the oPT.

ARIJ is proud to present this updated environmental profile for the oPT, which is developed with the support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. This is the first time a status of the environment report for the oPT as a single territorial unit is published. It provides a narrative, statistical and cartographic description of the current environmental status in the oPT and shows the trends of the major environmental indicators over the period from 1997 till 2007. It includes a list of recommendations to monitor and control further environmental degradation, and to carry out restoration actions in environmental hot spots. The profile, as well as the updated EIS, is posted on ARIJ’s website (http:///www.arij.org), in order to be accessible to decision makers, the public and all those who can benefit from them.

Prepared by Mrs. Roubina Ghattas

This Week in Palestine
February 2008

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