Amnesty: Israel curbing water

2009-10-26 20:44
Jerusalem - Human rights group Amnesty International said in a report published on Tuesday that Israeli restrictions prevent Palestinians from receiving enough water in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The report says Israel's daily water consumption per capita is four times higher than that in the Palestinian territories.

"Water is a basic need and a right, but for many Palestinians obtaining even poor-quality subsistence-level quantities of water has become a luxury that they can barely afford," said Amnesty's Donatella Rovera.

Israel, itself facing unprecedented water shortages and rising tariffs, controls much of the West Bank's supplies, pumping from an aquifer that bridges Israel and the territory.

Israel sells some water back to the Palestinians under quotas agreed in the 1993 Oslo Accords, which rights groups say have not been increased in line with population growth.

The report said that Gaza's coastal aquifer, its sole fresh water resource, has been polluted by infiltration of seawater and raw sewage and degraded by over-extraction.

Israel maintains a blockade of the Gaza Strip, an area taken over by Hamas Islamists who fought Palestinian forces loyal to Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007.

Israel's water authority called the report "biased and incorrect, at the very least" and said that while there is a water gap, it is not nearly as big as presented in Amnesty's findings.

It said Israel has met its obligations under the Oslo agreement while Palestinians have failed to meet their own requirements to recycle water and were not distributing water efficiently.

Amnesty said water consumption in Israel is 300 litres a day per person and 70 litres a day in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israel's water authority said those numbers are misleading, because they take into account internal distribution and do not compare total water consumption. It says the total numbers are 408 litres per day for Israelis and 287 litres for Palestinians.

The Amnesty report described how Palestinians in the West Bank rely on water from tankers that are forced to take long detours to avoid Israeli military checkpoints and roads off-limits to Palestinians. The procedure has led to steep increases in water prices, the report added.
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