13th September, 2013 marks the two-decade anniversary of the signing of the Oslo Accords. In light of this occasion, the Emergency Water and Sanitation/Hygiene (EWASH) Advocacy Task Force wrote a report detailing the situation of Palestinians’ water rights in the West Bank and Gaza Strip which argues that “Palestinians have come no closer to achieving their basic water rights” since the Accords were signed.
The report includes a list of quick and telling facts about water allocation in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the differences between the water situation before Oslo and today. According to the report, Palestinians living in the West Bank have “less access to water per capita than in 1993,” which has resulted in the increasing necessity for Palestinians to purchase water from Israeli companies to “meet their basic water needs.”
In the Gaza Strip, which has been under an air, naval and land blockade since 2006 imposed by the Israeli regime, the only source of water for Palestinians is from a Coastal aquifer. The report continued, saying that less than 5% of the water from the Coastal aquifer is actually safe to drink.
Israelis consume some 90% of the shared water resources in the occupied Palestinian territories, which constitutes a violation of international law, the average domestic consumption rate for Palestinians living in the West Bank is 70 liters per capita per day (l/c/d), which is 30 l/c/d lower than the “absolute minimum” World Health Organization recommendation for water consumption. The average Israeli consumption is some three times the WHO minimum, according to the EWASH report.
Israeli’s occupation of the West Bank has consistently included the destruction of Palestinian water and sanitation infrastructure, including wells, cisterns, rainwater catchments and sewage treatment plants, which, the report says, is a “primary cause of Palestinian displacement, particularly in Area C.” Area C is under full Israeli administrative and military control and constitutes some 60% of the West Bank, according to a recent report by Israeli human rights information center B’Tselem.
EWASH concluded its report with the statement, “Access to safe, reliable and adequate water supplies is a basic right, and should not be held hostage to negotiations or a final agreement. It is time to think outside of the Oslo framework. It is time to act on water.”