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Israel shuts off water to Jordan Valley farms

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Four days after an Israeli minister threatened to restrict the West Bank's water supply, Israeli authorities closed off the main water source used for agriculture in a Jordan Valley village on Sunday, committee members and lawyers said.

Four days after an Israeli minister threatened to restrict the West Bank's water supply, Israeli authorities closed off the main water source used for agriculture in a Jordan Valley village on Sunday, committee members and lawyers said.



The Bardalah village's farmers could stand to lose not only profit, but the land's viability, and have protested the decision.



Fathi Ikdeirat, campaign coordinator for Save the Jordan Valley said "the decision threatens to destroy tens of thousands of agricultural farmlands, greenhouses, citrus and palm trees, particularly as its the season for vegetable harvesting and when fruits bloom."



The main water source is located in the residential part of the village and supplies the northern Jordan Valley and surrounding illegal Israeli settlements with water, he added.



Ikhdeirait said the Israeli water company Mokorot built three aquifers since the 1970s, dispensing 5,000 cubic meters of water per hour, largely benefiting the nearby settlements as "Bardalah only gets 65 cubic meters of water per hour before they stopped pumping water. The last aquifer was built two years ago underneath the village."



"We hear the sound of water passing through the pipes in the middle of the village, but we can't drink from it or use it. The water pipelines extended by the Israeli water company is separating the village into two sections," he added.



Dozens of farmers protested against Israeli procedure in the Jordan Valley, and demanded that a swift resolution be found before they sustain considerable loses in their crops and yield, which they depend on for their income and livelihood.



Nader Thawabteh, a lawyer in Bardalah who represents its residents, said the Israeli water company has accused village residents of stealing water "as an excuse to cease pumping water to us. We categorically deny this."



The lawyer added that the amount of water pumped into the village was reduced over five years from 150 cubic meters per hour to the current 65 cubic meter allowance, and "now it is totally shut down."



The village's farmers have appealed to the Palestinian Authority and international organizations to re-pump water into their farms.



Bardalah is home to 1,900 residents, the majority of whom rely on agricultural work on 300 dunums of greenhouses for their income. Approximately 3,000 greenhouses and land require irrigation, while 200 sustain crops that do not need watering.



On Wednesday, Israeli Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau threatened to restrict the West Bank water supply if no sewage treatment plants were installed in the area, a UN alert warned.



The official reportedly told Israel's Army Radio that "They get clean water from us, and in return they give us sewage. This destroys nature, and I would also say that this is the way that wicked people behave."



According to a 2009 B'Tselem report, a joint 2007 study by Israel's Nature and Parks Authority Environment Unit, Water and Streams Department in the Ministry of Environmental Protection and the environmental-protection staff officer in the Civil Administration, only 81 of 121 settlements in the West Bank were connected to wastewater treatment facilities.



"The result is that 12 mcm of wastewater from settlements is treated, while 5.5 mcm flows as raw wastewater into West Bank streams and valleys," the report said.



Landau, however, told radio personnel that the amount of sewage treated in areas under PA control totals only five percent, compared to approximately 70 percent in Israeli settlements.



B'Tselem's study found, however, that "During more than 40 years of occupation, Israel has not built advanced regional wastewater

treatment plants in the settlements to match those inside Israel."



Although the Civil Administration prepared connections in the conduit for collecting Palestinian wastewater, no village has yet been connected to it, due to Palestinian refusal to cooperate in projects that may legitimize settlements.

www.maannews.net

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