Rainwater restricts bloodshed
Since 1987, Palestinian Hydrology Group (PHG) has been successfully utilising rainwater
harvesting as a tool in Palestine to deal with water shortage. This shortage is the direct
result of Israels iniquitous water policy, which directly determines the access and
control of the water resources between the two warring neighbours in the Middle East.
Water security is also one of the major issues for negotiation by the Palestinian
Israelis receive five times as much water per person daily as Palestinians. According
to Jessica McCallin, a freelance journalist focusing on the interplay between
environmental and economic issues in Middle East, "Palestinians use on average 57 to
76liters of water per person daily, which is much below the World Health
Organisations recognised daily minimum requirement of 100 liters." The economic
development of Palestine has also been adversely affected. Agriculture, which is the
backbone of the economy, remains underdeveloped. Irrigated area has shrunk and is now
restricted to below five per cent of arable land. This is the due to the fact that about
88 per cent of Palestine and 75 per cent of West Bank as well as Gaza Strips
renewable water resources are under the control of Israel. Following rules are being
formalised by Israel:
It has capped
Palestines consumption, by placing a ban on the digging of new wells and giving
quotas on how much water could be extracted from the existing wells;
Israel is exploiting the new water resources falling within Palestines occupied
territories like, the Eastern aquifer in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip;
In the months of summer, when the water becomes scarce —Mekorot, Israels water
company restricts the supply of water to Palestines towns, so that the supplies to
Israel remain unaffected.
The situation deteriorates further as the tensions between two countries frequently
flare up. Israeli army blocks the entrance – making it both difficult and dangerous for
villagers to go to nearby wells or for the water tankers to get into the village.
This results in drastic rise in the price of the water, making it more difficult for many
Palestinians to meet their basic needs.
Under these conditions, PHGs cistern program has provided respite to about 15,000
households by providing a secure water supply. According to Ayman Rabi, the groups
executive director, "It is harder to reach those places where the unrest is worst,
but easier to get people to accept rainwater conservation because they find it very
difficult to get water regularly."
Cisterns have been existing in Palestine since Roman period. They constitute of a tank
or a reservoir for storing rainwater and are installed with communitys
participation. They can last for ten years and are also easy to maintain. This system
reduces the expenses incurred by a household on procuring water from other sources by
almost 54 per cent. Cisterns have been existing in Palestine since Roman period. The group
is also working with thousands of farmers to build ponds for recharging springs and wells.
PHG works by directly involving the local community. They are conducting public
awareness programs to educate the community on how to protect and use water efficiently.
The women constitute their main target group, as they are the ones who fetch water in
rural areas. They have also included students in their training programs to ensure
sustainable future. The group is also encouraging economical and environmentally
sustainable techniques to reduce water consumption and reuse of treated wastewater for
IRN 2001, Palestinian Hydrology Group fights water inequity by catching the rain: An
interview, World Rivers Review, 4 - 5
In 2001, Karnataka government started a six year scheme - Jal Samvardhan Yojana
Sangh (JSYS) for reviving old tanks. This yojana is a part of the states
drought management initiative. It is being promoted through Integrated Tank Development
Project (ITDP). It begins by developing the capacity of the villagers, followed by
physical treatment of the tanks and their catchments, ending with handing over of the
tanks to the communities.
In the first stage 2,000 tanks have been selected for restoration. The estimated budget
is Rs 946.47 crore.World Bank (WB) is partly funding the project. In the first year, 100
tanks will be treated, 300 in the second, 1,000 in the third and 600 in the fourth.
The sangh has identified a few anchor non-governmental organisations to form
Tank Users Associations (TUA), at the village level. Each family has a male and a
female representative in the association. All members participate in taking decisions,
while the implementation is carried by the Tank Users Committee (tuc) which consists
of members selected from the tua with a secretary having a rotational term for two years.
The money allotted goes directly to the villagers committee.
To help in implementing and monitoring at the district level, a multi-disciplinary
cluster facilitation team (cft) is set up. It consists of five members, who will look
after a set of 40 tanks. The cft is promoted by the ngo and its a link between the
government and the people.
For further information:
M Madan Gopal, Executive Director
Jal Samvardhan Yojana Sangha,
16/ 1,5th Floor, SPComplex, Lalbagh Road,
Banglore (Karnataka) 560027