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Gaza Strip must pursue waste proposal for better economic future

January 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Creating two new landfills to alleviate the Gaza Strip’s three operating dump sites would provide much needed emergency fixes to the territory’s solid waste management program, the World Bank said in a report released this month.  Those long term measures would reduce groundwater contamination and air pollution stemming from the 1,450 tons of solid waste deposited daily in Gaza’s three near capacity landfills in Johr al Deek east of Gaza City, Sofa east of Rafah City and Deir al Balah in the territory’s center, the 23-page report said.

But local governments will need to raise revenue to finance the $9.6 million effort, the report said. That represents a major hurdle for the program considering a majority of residents find fees too high for the current level of service, and most cannot afford to pay them anyway, it noted.

“The three sites are reaching their maximum capacity, in addition to the fact that the expected amount of solid waste is expected to reach a round 3700 tons/day in 2040,” the report said. “Accordingly there is a growing need for establishing an integrated SWM (solid waste management program) that to adequately handle the growing waste generation rates in GS (Gaza Strip) with minimum impacts on public health and the environment.”

The unmonitored waste management program needs revision regardless of cost, the report said. With a growth rate of 3.2 percent in 2011, the Gaza Strip was the world’s seventh-fastest expanding population, according to the CIA World Factbook. At 360 square miles — roughly twice the size of Washington, D.C., for almost three times the people — it is the 205th largest territory in the world.

Such a concentration of people surrounded by faulty waste management yields catastrophic public health problems. Chronic illness and prenatal health risks posed by consuming contaminated water and food will continue to negatively affect citizens’ economic potential and threaten long term development prospects.

Sofa and Johr al Deek would get new landfills under the proposal, with three new transfer stations serving each site, the report said. Sofa would swallow 550 tons of solid waste daily beginning in 2011 and increase to 1,200 daily in 2032. That figure would rise to 3,000 tons daily in 2040, it said.

Uncontrolled dumping mixes harmful health care and hazardous waste, the report noted. Decomposition releases particulate matter and toxins into the air, thus contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and myriad other public health problems.

“The situation at the existing uncontrolled disposal site is associated with resident populations of vermin which are factors for increasing nuisances to humans and the spread of disease, and disrupting the natural ecosystem,” the report said. “The adoption of high standards for the new landfill, through compaction and daily coverage, will limit the potential for the development of resident populations of vermin and pests.”

Erecting borders in the new landfills could help mitigate some health problems the current system exacerbates. Scavengers often infiltrate the currently unprotected landfills, spreading health problems associated with the piles of waste, the report said. The outdated, boundary-free landfills also contribute to soil contamination as rainwater runoff carries toxins into the earth that so many in Gaza depend on for subsistence farming.

The proposed landfills will include base lining to contain toxic materials, the report said. A drainage layer also will divert leachate — the liquid containing solid particles — through a system of underground pipes, where the liquid will be pumped into a “leachate pond.”

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Impact of Jordan decision not to recognize Palestinian statehood

Jordan’s announcement that it would not recognize the Palestinian Authority’s seemingly imminent unilateral declaration of statehood will send shockwaves around the Arab world. While the Arab Spring has united the Arab world and occurred irrespective of the Palestinian statehood question, the Hashemite Kingdom’s stance will certainly provoke strong reaction.

Arab leaders have rallied around the Palestinian cause for political gain, although the only Arab country with a true vested interest in Palestinians is Jordan. Most Arab nations — Syria being the most prominent example — have used Palestinians as rhetoric and as a political football. Many Arab nations reject Palestinian citizens from entering their borders, as even the opening of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt has been met with resistance.

Jordan's border with Israel and West Bank could be more volatile with Palestinian statehood

Jordan, however, begrudgingly accepted Palestinians. They are second class citizens in that country despite comprising nearly half the population. So if anyone is an authority on Palestinian statehood and refugees in the Arab world, it’s Jordan.

But as new Arab governments come to power, they may be less beholden to United States and other Western influences. The U.S. supported many Arab dictators — like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak — because they were willing to support Israel’s right to exist. However, that view was not aligned with the Arab street in those nations. As democratically elected governments come to power in Tunisia and Egypt, and possibly Libya in due time, it will be more difficult for the U.S. to interfere and pressure those leaders to support the unpopular cause of aiding Israel.

Jordan may now have partially ostracized itself among a new group of Arab leaders by essentially breaking a party line. It will be interesting to see how accepted Jordan is when a new government in Egypt takes control. And if Bashar al Assad remains in power, Jordan will not be spared from his vitriol. Same goes for Iran.

Jordan’s stance on Palestinian statehood breaks from Arab solidarity on that issue. Jordan already has set itself apart from Arab nations by its cool but cordial relations with Israel, which may be more for Jordan’s own border security than shared ideological beliefs. Jordan maintains respectable ties with Israel out of necessity because they share a border. Their histories would not naturally align the two.

And that is why Jordan is making this decision — the border. A unilaterally-declared Palestinian state would mean Israeli involvement, as it could be considered aggressive behavior because Israel believes it has a right to settlements in the West Bank. Politically, Jordan had to try its best to maintain the status quo and keep as quiet a border as possible with Israel and the West Bank. By not lending its support to Palestinian statehood, Jordan shields itself from Israeli blame and the associated political ramifications.

The U.S. will undoubtedly veto any UN Security Council resolution, so the Palestinian Authority will have to appeal to the General Assembly for symbolic support of statehood. Nothing will be official until the Security Council agrees, which is unlikely for the indefinite future.

Side note:

Interestingly, the YNet story also had this to say about Palestinian identification papers in Jordan:

Meanwhile, the paper also reported that Jordan is preparing to cancel the identification papers provided for Palestinian statesmen and their families. The decision was explained as a move that began with a 1988 ruling “to disengage from the West Bank and maintain Palestinian identity”.

The wording is extremely vague. I’m not sure yet what it means to “cancel” identification papers. The papers were issued to Palestinian refugees beginning in 1988 to distinguish them from Jordanian citizens. The Jordanian government put a nice spin on it with that quote, but it ultimately has been used to discriminate against Palestinians in Jordan rather than to “maintain Palestinian identity” out of some source of nationalistic pride. By canceling these papers, are Palestinians in Jordan recognized as the same as Jordanians? Or are they now officially nomads with no national identity or rights? I’ll have to look into this.

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