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Palestine blames Israel for its sanitation woes at Swachh meet

Palestinian water minister Mazen Ghunaim’s presentation during the conference raised a few eyebrows, given the political attack on Israel.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Oct 15, 2018, 07.22 AM IST
The International Sanitation Conference, held in the Capital last week to mark the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and four years of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Mission, became an unlikely platform for Palestine to launch a verbal offensive on Israel. In its presentation, Palestine said its sanitation problem could be solved only if Israeli occupation of Gaza ended.

Palestinian water minister Mazen Ghunaim’s presentation during the conference raised a few eyebrows, given the political attack on Israel. He said the “way forward” for Palestine’s sanitation challenges was to “end the Israeli occupation”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been the first Indian prime minister to visit Israel as well as Palestine. Modi went to Israel in June last year, when he visited both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, following which the Israel prime minister had come to India. This February, Modi became the first Indian prime minister to visit Palestine too, when he went to Ramallah.

In his presentation, Ghunaim said “illegal” Israeli settlements release effluent to the Palestinian sewerage system, complained of “illegal deduction” of taxes from Palestinians by Israel for trans-boundary wastewater and said access to material and energy was a challenge due to siege and blockade of Gaza. The presentation said all this was a “political challenge” to Palestine’s plans to safely manage its wastewater till 2030. Ghunaim also said the wastewater sector in Palestine was “completely neglected between 1967 and 1994” due to Israeli occupation, till the Oslo Agreement was signed. The agreement specified provisions of distribution of groundwater.

The presentation, however, said several waste water projects, submitted to Israeli–Palestinian Joint Water Committee, “were not approved because of the Israeli side”. Palestine said it needed $1.3 billion till 2032 to improve its sanitation service. According to the Palestinian Water Authority, groundwater is the main source of water for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and provides more than 90% of all water supplies, but Israel controls all shared water resources, including surface and groundwater, and utilises over 85% of these resources, leaving less than 15% for Palestinian use. The water situation in Gaza is worse than the West Bank, as per Palestinian Water Authority.

The Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention was a 4-day international conference earlier this month, bringing together sanitation minsters from around the world who gave their presentations over the first three days. Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave the concluding address at this convention on October 2.
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